New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell Challenges Lowered Signature Requirement in Recall Effort

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) filed two lawsuits on March 14, 2023, to challenge a consent judgment that was agreed upon by Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) and the organizers of the recall effort against Cantrell. The consent judgment, announced by Ardoin on March 1, 2023, revises the number of registered voters in the Orleans Parish down to 224,876 for the purpose of the recall effort. That lowers the requirement to put the recall election on the ballot to 44,975 signatures, down from 49,975.

Cantrell’s attorneys argue in the first lawsuit, filed with the Orleans Parish Civil District Court, that Ardoin lacked the authority to retroactively lower the signature threshold for a recall petition that had already been submitted. The lawsuit also states that Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Jennifer Medley, who approved the consent judgment, had a vested interest in the outcome of the litigation, based on reports that Medley was a signatory to the recall petition.

Cantrell also filed a petition with the 19th Judicial District Court for East Baton Rouge Parish seeking a Writ of Mandamus against Ardoin. If approved, that court order would direct Ardoin to show by what authority he negotiated the consent judgment.

The signature requirement for recalls in Louisiana is based on the number of people in the recall target’s district. For districts of 100,000 eligible voters or more, signatures equal to 20% of eligible voters are needed. Completed petitions must be submitted within 180 days of being filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State. Once signatures are handed in, the registrar of voters has 20 working days to certify the recall petition. If enough signatures are certified by the registrar of voters, the petition is forwarded to the governor who has 15 days to issue an election proclamation.

When petitioners began gathering signatures in August 2022, the signature requirement was expected to be 53,353. The number of required signatures was adjusted to 49,975 after a recalculation of registered voters in the parish. On February 16, recall organizers filed a lawsuit, contending that 30,000 voters have relocated from the parish and should be excluded from the voter rolls. With the consent judgment in place, the signature requirement for the recall effort against Cantrell was modified without the need to purge any names from the voter rolls.

Recall organizers said that more than 49,000 signatures were submitted by the deadline on February 22, 2023. Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters Sandra Wilson has until March 22, 2023, to verify the signatures.

The recall effort was initiated by New Orleans residents Eileen Carter and Belden Batiste. Petitions listed Cantrell’s “failure to put New Orleans first and execute responsibilities of the position” as the reason for recall. Carter has highlighted an increase in crime rates, deteriorating infrastructure, and a lack of interaction between Cantrell and city officials.

Cantrell responded to the recall effort during an interview with WGNO. She said, “I’ve chosen to do the hard things. That doesn’t mean that comes without the ability to please everyone. I cannot do that. I strive to but I cannot but I choose to do the hard things. I continue to make history around here.”

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