NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It has been nearly two weeks since organizers hoping to trigger a recall election against New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell submitted their petition to Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters Sandra Wilson. And still, neither the petitioners nor Registrar Sandra Wilson has said how many signatures were collected and are being examined for certification.
“At this juncture, we just can't provide any statements about the process, with everything we have going on,” Wilson's chief deputy registrar Danielle Duplessis-Hammond told Fox 8 on Tuesday.
Under state law, recall petitions are a public record. Fox 8 filed a public records request with the registrar on March 1, seeking to review or copy the petition. So far, the access has not been granted and the registrar says it will not respond to any request that hasn't been signed by at least 25 “qualified voters of the parish.”
“The law says the recall petition is public record from the time the first person signs it,” said election law attorney Scott Bickford. “So, the custodian of that record was the people that collected the signatures, up until the time they filed it with Sandra Wilson, the registrar of voters. She's now the custodian.”
According to Louisiana Revised Statute 18:154, “The records of each registrar are public records and at all times during office hours shall be open to inspection, except the early voting confirmation sheets of voters.”
Wilson has 20 business days -- until March 22 -- to certify and count the signatures on the petition. Bickford said that during this certification and counting phase, Wilson has a strong argument for not immediately fulfilling public records requests.
“She has 20 (working) days, once she got that, to count all these signatures and make sure that those signatures are in fact voters in Orleans Parish,” Bickford said. “So, if Sandra Wilson is asked at this point to produce public records, she probably has a good cause under the law to say, ‘No, this would interfere with my project of counting these votes and I can't even separate half of these and give you half of them without disrupting my count.'
“She probably has a pretty valid reason for not producing any records at this point.”