NOLA mayor files lawsuit to block recall going to a vote

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, a Democrat, filed two lawsuits Tuesday aimed at scuttling a legal settlement that reduced the number of signatures needed for her recall. The alleged “backroom deal” makes it easier for recall supporters to force an election on her recall.


Cantrell claims that Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, a Republican, made a deal with recall organizers. One lawsuit was filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court. The lawsuit calls the deal illegal. The 10% reduction in the number of signatures needed to force a vote on the mayor’s recall was called arbitrary. The second lawsuit was filed against Ardoin in Baton Rouge’s 19th Judicial District Court. Mayor Cantrell was joined by Lower 9th Ward activist Willie Calhoun in the second lawsuit.

Recall organizers Belden Batiste and Eileen Carter, both Democrats, are also named in the second lawsuit.

Cantrell attorney Marion Floyd said in a prepared statement that Ardoin had acted without any legal authority in reducing the number of signatures needed to trigger an election.

“What he did, essentially, was re-write the law which guides recall elections in Louisiana. But that power rests with the legislature. What Ardoin did was unlawful,” said Floyd.

It was expected that Cantrell would try to block the recall in court. The lawsuits focus on one issue – the legal settlement that reduced the number of signatures required for the recall. The judge who approved the deal signed the recall petition in December. The judge signing the recall petition is not illegal or deemed unethical. Many legal professionals, though, think she should have disclosed that she signed it.


Election officials are going through the pages of signatures to verify that the recall organizers collected 44,976, the minimum amount of valid signatures needed. Sandra Wilson, Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters has until March 22 to verify recall signatures. When the recall was launched last August, organizers needed 49,976 signatures to bring the recall to an election.

Cantrell’s legal team questions whether the recall organizers have the number of signatures needed, though organizers insist they do.

Documents turned over to The Times-Picayune under a court settlement show that the campaign collected about 32,000 signatures on 10,000 petition pages. However, the campaign turned over thousands more pages to the Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters, making it impossible to determine the final count.

If Mayor Cantrell wins in court, the number of signatures required for the recall to go forward returns to the original number, which is higher by 5,000 signatures. If she is not successful with her lawsuits, the numbers stand as they are.

Ardoin’s office is reviewing the lawsuits.

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