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Councilmen: No election necessary; errors can be corrected with ordinance

Posted at 11:13 AM, Feb 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-25 19:43:39-05

Lafayette City-Parish Councilmen Kenneth Boudreaux, Jay Castille and Bruce Conque issued a statement after meeting with Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin on the de-consolidation vote issue this morning.

Also commenting today were Mayor President Joel Robideaux and Council President Jared Bellard.

At issue are some errors in voting precincts in the measure, which was approved by voters last year. To read our previous reporting on the issue, click here and here.

To see KATC’s interview with Ardoin about the situation, click here.

Here’s the statement:

After consulting with attorneys, election officials, experts, and a productive meeting with the Secretary of State’s office this morning, it is clear that the only reasonable path to correct the clerical errors in the voting precincts is an ordinance, council members said Monday.

Accordingly, the council will meet on March 12 to introduce an ordinance that clarifies boundaries in writing so that the precincts and district lines match the City Council district maps that voters used when voting to approve separate City and Parish Councils on December 8.

The ordinance has been drafted and sent to city-parish attorneys for their review. If introduced on March 12, final adoption would be scheduled for March 26. That would give  election officials more than enough time to prepare for qualifying this summer.

“Not only are precinct and district boundaries routinely re-adjusted by ordinance, re-adjusting by ordinance is also preferred to an election,” Council member Jay Castille said. “Trying to fix boundaries by an election holds the possibility that voters will vote ‘no’, leaving potentially hundreds of voters without a council district.”

The voters spoke clearly on December 8 that they wanted to see separate city and parish councils, Council member Kenneth Boudreaux said.

“We appreciate the discussion over the last few days and understand the need to correct those technical errors,” Boudreaux said. “But any solution has to be one that validates the will of the people. That should be foremost.”

An ordinance is the best way to clear up the issue, Council member Bruce Conque said.

“Many people with knowledge about this type of issue have reached out and verified that an ordinance is the best solution,” Conque said. “The voters deserve a solution that will end this mess soon.”

Mayor-President Joel Robideaux also issued a statement following the meeting. He said that city-parish officials presented their argument that the city-parish charter can be amended by ordinance as it specifically relates to reapportionment.

Secretary of State officials said the clerical errors must be corrected by July 1.  Robideaux said he doesn’t want to rush the process because it is “imperative to get it right this time.”

According to Robideaux, also in attendance at the meeting were: a representative from the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret, Lafayette Parish Registrar of Voters Charlene Meaux Menard, Lafayette City-Parish Council Chairman Jared Bellard, Lafayette City-Parish Clerk of Council Veronica Williams and demographer Mike Hefner.

Council President Jared Bellard also issued a statement:

Below is an update on the meeting held this morning in the office of Secretary of State, Kyle Ardoin.

Attendees:  R. Kyle Ardoin, Secretary of State, Commissioner of Elections, Heather Meyers, Lani Durio, Deputy Commissioner of Elections & Executive Counsel, Celia Cangelosi, Outside Counsel for Secretary of State’s Office, Tom Jones, Assistant Attorney, Attorney General’s Office, Jared Bellard, Lafayette City-Parish Council Chairman, Charlene Meaux Menard, Lafayette Parish Registrar of Voters, Louis Perret, Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court, Joel Robideaux, Lafayette Mayor-President, Paul Escott, City-Parish Attorney, Daniel Gauthier, Assistant City-Parish Attorney, Mike Hefner, Demographer, Veronica Williams, Clerk of the Council , Joe Salter, First Assistant Secretary of State, Sherri Wharton Hadskey, Director of Elections Services and other staff from the state and local levels

Secretary Ardoin provided the attached, which includes the issues at hand and the points to be made.  Issues at hand relate to a number of precinct/map corrections, with a major error being that the plan excluded a segment of voters in the City of Lafayette.  Another issue was that the Clerk of Court would be unable to hold qualifying based on the current written descriptions voted on under the new Charter ordinance.

Ardoin stated his recommendations in that, it should go back to citizens for a revote or a special election could be called by the legislature to provide for an election date in June.  However, he would leave it in the hands of Lafayette officials to determine the direction on moving forward.  If it is determined by LCG officials that the way to move forward is to adopt an ordinance to correct the errors, Ardoin’s office would review the final ordinance.  At that point, the SOS could then determine the validity of the ordinance.

Another option is to request an Attorney General Opinion.  That could be done by resolution.  A majority vote of the Lafayette City-Parish Council would be required.  Any one Council Member may author the resolution for placement on the agenda.  The Mayor-President may also have the option to request an AG opinion.

Further, the LCG Legal Department would advise the Council on options on how to move forward.  No matter the final solution, it was determined that the corrections/fix should be completed by July 1st.  Please note that a final decision on how we move forward to correct these errors was NOT determined.  Our Legal team (Paul Escott), will issue us a formal written report.

By copy to Paul Escott, we await your response.