Thursday, February 16, 2023

Louisiana: New Orleans Mayor Recall Signature Cushion question -- How many signatures will they actually need to clear the hurdle?

Petitioners are now claiming that they need only 1029 additional signatures to get the recall of New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell on the ballot before the February 22nd deadline. Cantrell has faced complaints about a failure to put New Orleans first as well as recent revelations over her travel expenses, including a $17,000 flight to Paris

The stories are not clear if they are counting in the cushion needed to get over the signature rejection rate, which we will get into below.

The signature requirement seemed to have dropped from an original estimate of 53,353 valid signatures needed to 49,975.2 (all 20% of registered voters). The 3,368 voter drop is due to an argument that there were fewer "active and eligible" voters in the Parish, specifically, 17,000 voters haven't updated their addresses and haven't voted in the last 10 years. The recall petitioners have since filed to try to drive the number even lower, claiming that 30,000 additional voters should be dropped (which would cut the signature requirement by 6000).

Louisiana has not been a big recall state, primarily because the law used to be so imposing, requiring signatures from 33 1/3rd registered voters to get on the ballot. This was arguably the highest requirement in the country (though the state gives a generous 180 days to gather those signatures). The law was changed to lower the total to 20% of registered voters -- still higher than many places with their 25% of voter turnout, but significantly more doable. 

That said, Louisiana has had at least 8 officials face a recall since 2011, with 5 being removed and 3 surviving the vote. Additionally, 5 officials have resigned in the face of recall threats. Here's the full lists of recalls (but not resignations) in Louisiana history. No other state has that, so thank you very much, Secretary of State's office.

We're not going into each of these recalls, but I want to look at four specific attempts to get a handle on the state's signature validation rate. 

The most recent recall election took place against Franklinton Alderman Heath Spears in 2022 (Spears survived the vote). Petitioners handed in 921 signatures, and 737 were validated (an 80% validation rate). 

The recall attempt against Mansfield Mayor Curtis McCoy in 2016 failed with 1045 signatures handed in an 799 validated (76.5% validation rate) -- (another official faced a recall vote, but I'm not sure how many were actually handed in).

St. Martinville Councilman Dennis Paul Williams in 2018 saw 428 signatures handed in, with 337 approved (a 79% validation rate). This did not get to the ballot. 

Port Allen Mayor Demetric "Deedy" Slaughter was kicked out in a recall in 2013. Petitioners handed in 1521 signatures and got 1387 valids (needed 1273), for a 91% validation rate. 

In these posts, I examine recalls in California and elsewhere throughout the country. The two most prominent recalls, California Governors Gray Davis and Gavin Newsom, saw 18-19% signature failure rate. While there have been recalls with much higher rates (Arizona State Senate saw a 42% failure rate) and much less (Colorado's State Senate recall had a 6%, though using rules unavailable elsewhere), we see that a cushion of 20%+ is generally needed to give a good chance of success. In this case, under the close to 50K needed, that would be 60,000 signatures. 

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