UPDATE: The word we hear is Better Together turned in 810 withdrawals, meaning the St. George folks have a cushion of some 1,100 signatures against invalidations and future withdrawals – which can continue until the current signatures and the entire petition is verified. That should happen within a month or so – there is little chance of getting 1,100 withdrawals in that time.
So this phase of the St. George effort looks to be all but done. It’s a breathtaking achievement regardless of what happens going forward.
ORIGINAL: Today the organizers turned in 4,631 signatures to the East Baton Rouge registrar of voters to complete the St. George petition drive. The number needed to hit the 17,859 required to trigger an incorporation election was 2,694 after the first round of signatures; they’re now 1,937 ahead of the number.
Hayride sources say over 1,000 of those signatures were collected in the last 36 hours, in a mad scramble by the organizers to build a margin of error.
Later today, the Better Together people who have been attempting to kill the petition say they’ll announce the number of withdrawals they’ve managed to collect – which they’re boasting will be a “large number.” We now know the math the registrar will have to work through – how many of the 4,631 signatures turned in in this final round will be invalidated for bad addresses, etc., and how many will be offset by withdrawals. If that number goes above 1,937, then St. George is dead. If it can’t rise to 1,937, we move on to the next stage.
Which one would figure would be an election, but it won’t be. Instead it will be lawsuits filed by the city of Baton Rouge through its lawyer Mary Olive Pierson, who will allege that because there were annexations that altered the map of St. George from the time the petition began until the present, the whole petition is invalid. That will be Pierson’s first argument in opposition to the St. George election; when that argument is thrown out by a judge either at the district, circuit or Supreme Court level, Pierson will argue that St. George doesn’t have the tax base to be a viable city.
There are other, even dumber, arguments to be made. For example, you can hear some of them around the 33-minute mark here.
The median income in what would be St. George is some $87,000 per year.
We don’t know when Election Day in St. George will be. If everything moves quickly, it could happen in October or November. What is more likely is that it will happen next spring, when the presidential primary would take place.
That’s assuming this round of St. George petitioning does result in an election. But if it doesn’t, there is little reason to believe there won’t be even more support for St. George in two years. The opponents of St. George have never offered the people in the southern part of the parish any reason to believe their concerns will be met, and should the effort fail it’s more likely the response will be recriminations rather than rapprochement.
Imagine what a Mayor Sharon Weston Broome or Ted James will do to the support for a St. George incorporation, and you’ll know whether the effort can come roaring back to life after a legally-mandated two-year hiatus.