Mayor Cantrell files two lawsuits challenging recall petition
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell filed two lawsuits Tuesday (March 14), challenging a decision to lower the threshold of signatures needed to trigger a recall election.
The suits, filed in Orleans and East Baton Rouge Parishes, seek to nullify and invalidate an agreement struck in Orleans Civil District Court that lowered the number of signatures needed by 5,000 names. Mayor Cantrell’s legal team has also asked the Secretary of State to “show by what authority he negotiated” the settlement, calling the reclassification of 25,000 Orleans Parish voters “arbitrary.”
Attorney Marion Floyd, who is representing Mayor Cantrell, says the deal was illegal, claiming Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin had no legal right or authority to change the number of active voters in the middle of a recall effort.
“The Secretary of State acted without constitutional or legislative authority in reducing the number of qualified voters required to trigger a recall election,” said Floyd. “Simply put, Ardoin did not have the power to make that change and make it retroactive to the date of submission of the recall petition. What he did, essentially, was re-write the law which guides recall elections in Louisiana. But that power rests with the legislature. What Ardoin did was unlawful.”
Ardoin’s office struck the deal on March 1 in response to a lawsuit from recall organizers claiming the Orleans Parish voter rolls had some 30,000 erroneous names - people who had died or moved out of the parish and state.
“On the day the petition was filed, the number was frozen. However many electors there were in Orleans Parish, that’s the number you bring forward,” Floyd explained.
New Orleans businessman William Rouselle, an advisor to Mayor Cantrell, called out recall organizers for not making the signatures public and Judge Jennifer Medley, who reportedly signed the recall petition last December and signed off on the agreement between Ardoin and the recall organizers.
“We feel compelled to step up to the plate now because these actions by the Secretary of State could be a precursor of what will transpire in the upcoming state and local elections,” Rouselle said. “They used this opportunity to demoralize our people, divide our city, and disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters in New Orleans ahead of the Governor’s race. But we won’t let them take our rights away.”
Fox 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti says it’s possible the two lawsuits could be joined at some point.
“It may not be significant that there are two separate lawsuits because they have the same types of facts,” he said.
Ardoin’s office says it is reviewing the filings and did not have a comment at this time.
Floyd says he is hoping that a hearing will be scheduled later this month or in early April.
Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters Sandra Wilson has until March 22 to certify over 17,000 pages of signatures turned in by recall organizers. If enough signatures are certified, the petition will go to Governor John Bel Edwards’ desk to be put on a ballot.
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