New Orleans mayor recall petition falls short by thousands of signatures

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 10:03 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 21, 2023 at 12:28 PM CDT
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The effort to force New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell into a recall election was declared a failure Tuesday (March 21), as the number of certified signatures fell about 18,000 shy of the number required, officials said.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards confirmed there will not be a special election to recall Cantrell, saying the recall campaign produced 27,219 valid signatures on its petition, well short of the 44,976 needed.

“I won’t be calling an election, that threshold was not satisfied,” Edwards said at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he was scheduled to give a speech. The governor said the petition was signed by about 12 percent of qualified electors in Orleans Parish, falling short of the required 20 percent threshold.

Cantrell issued a statement Tuesday afternoon thanking New Orleans residents “for trusting in my leadership.”

“My administration has always remained focused on addressing the real pressing issues that face our city,” Cantrell said in the statement. “Now, with the divisiveness of the failed recall campaign officially behind us, we must heal and recommit ourselves to working collaboratively to continue the progress we’ve made towards reducing crime, increasing public safety, building a more sustainable and resilient city and creating economic and job opportunities that benefit all of our people.

“As a former member of the New Orleans City Council and a twice-elected mayor, I have always respected and believed deeply in the democratic process. The right of the people to use their voice to express concerns are hallmarks of a strong, functioning democracy. New Orleans is a strong community that continues to make meaningful progress each day. I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to the residents of New Orleans for trusting in my leadership and believing that, for New Orleans, the best is truly yet to come.”

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Edwards said more than 39,000 signatures were deemed invalid by Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters Sandra Wilson.

“I think 12.11 percent was the percentage of qualified electors that actually signed the petition,” Edwards said. “While there were an awful lot of signatures, there weren’t that many that were valid. So it would be hard for me to believe that a court would upend that certification.”

According to documents submitted to the governor by Wilson, petition organizers on Feb. 22 delivered an initial batch of 34,625 signatures, to which seven were added and 7,411 rejected as invalid, a failure rate of about 21.5 percent.

In the five-day grace period that followed when electors could add or remove their names from the petition, a second batch of 32,421 signatures was submitted. Of this supplemental submission, only 24 signatures were certified and 32,397 were rejected as invalid, a failure rate of about 99 percent.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Dillard University political analyst and public policy professor Dr. Robert Collins.

With 44,976 valid elector signatures required, the failure or success of the petition clearly hinged on the high rejection rate for the second batch of signatures. Wilson did not explain the reason for the bulk of those rejections.

Her submission to the governor listed reasons why 6,256 signatures of that second batch were rejected. The reasons cited ranged from duplicate signatures to non-legible signatures to others that were signed without a witness or date, to even 12 signatures of voters found to be deceased. But 26,207 other signatures in the second batch were tossed out under the reason “Other.”

“It’s an enormous amount of failed signatures,” said Joshua Spivak, a California-based attorney and national recall expert. “It seems something must have gone wrong, beyond the normal course of action. Generally, you would see 20 percent, maybe even 30 percent. But to have 60 percent of signatures fail suggests something went very wrong.

“It seems to be that this extra five-day period is just for signatures collected afterward. I assume that’s the reading of the registrar.”

Recall organizers said they are “exploring all legal options” and vowed their fight to unseat Cantrell would continue.

“The efforts of the recall have only just begun,” the petition organizers said in a statement. “We are exploring all legal options at this time. We will also move forward with legislation to correct the injustices that we were met with along this process. We will continue to demand accountability from our elected officials. We will continue to fight for the city that we love.”


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