St. George's Incorporation Petition Submitted

BATON ROUGE (AP) — St. George supporters have submitted their petition for incorporation to the East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters.

         Monday's move comes on the heels of a flurry of high-profile land annexations by the City of Baton Rouge.

         "We chose to turn the petition in early due to the constant efforts by the City of Baton Rouge to undermine the democratic process," organizers wrote in a prepared statement distributed by spokesman Lionel Rainey. "This petition is a testament to the legitimate concerns of nearly 20,000 registered voters in this parish."

         The Advocate’s Rebekah Allen reports Rainey estimated the group had about 18,200 signatures as of Monday. Supporters needed 17,746 signatures or 25 percent of the registered voters in the proposed boundaries of the new city of St. George.

         Rainey said earlier they had crossed that hurdle in late September, but said the group would push forward with trying to get 20,000 signatures in case some are tossed on technicalities or for errors. If the petition turns out to be short of the requisite valid signatures, St. George organizers will be given 60 days to close the gap.

         Despite the decision to turn the petition in ahead of reaching that threshold, voters in the proposed new city will not get a chance to vote until next spring at the earliest.

         The deadline to submit the petition in time for the Nov. 4 election has passed. And the deadline to get on the December ballot requires the petition to be submitted to the Secretary of State's Office on Tuesday. But, before the Secretary of State's office sets an election, the parish Registrar's office must validate the signatures — an effort that takes several weeks.

         Registrar Elaine Lamb said there was no chance for a December election. She previously said her office would need about a month to verify so many signatures.

         Still, submitting the petition thrusts St. George organizers into the next phase of their campaign.

         Baton Rouge attorney Mary Olive Pierson, who is working for the city of Baton Rouge to fight the St. George effort, has said the city will file lawsuits challenging the validity of the petitions.

         The proposed city of St. George makes up the unincorporated southern most part of East Baton Rouge Parish. It's about 80 square miles and would be home to 100,000 people.

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