Cantrell recall organizers dispute official count of signatures

Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 5:30 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The presence of cartoon characters’ names among thousands of signatures was not the only reason a petition to recall the mayor of New Orleans failed, according to election officials.

Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters Sandra Wilson on Thursday (March 23) gave her first explanation of her office’s process of verifying thousands of apparently disorganized signatures handed over by recall organizers.

The recall was declared a failure Tuesday as officials said they were only able to certify 27,219 signatures, well short of the 44,976 needed.

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. 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, of those about 99% were rejected as invalid.

Wilson’s office displayed for media outlets at least one page with the names Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Shrek, Goofy, and other cartoon characters on it.

A deputy registrar said all of the pages submitted in the second batch were duplicates.

In some cases, officials showed where multiple pages of signatures had been photocopied onto one page and then submitted, the pages overlapping and covering up details Wilson’s office said is necessary to enter the names into their “ERIN” database for certification.

“When we input into the ERIN system, it calculates based on whether that particular person was accepted or whether or not it was a duplicate,” Deputy Registrar Danielle Duplessis-Hammond said. “So when you have pages that cannot process through the ERIN system, it doesn’t receive it that way.”

Recall organizers said the math doesn’t add up. In a press conference immediately following the registrar’s, Eileen Carter and Belden Batiste claimed they turned in 100,000 signatures and sent in copies on purpose.

“What we did was, the second batch was partially a full copy of everything we had,” Carter said. “Why? Because we didn’t trust that [Wilson] wasn’t going to lose something so we had a fail-safe for us and put extras in every box to make sure they were opened.”

The recall organizers say they’re looking at all of their legal options moving forward.

Both parties are looking forward to lawmakers taking a closer look at the recall process in Louisiana in hopes something changes.

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