Earlier this week, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards refused to certify the May 5 municipal election date for the incipient city that petitioners wish to form in southern East Baton Rouge Parish. While he tried to blame Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry’s office for not offering assistance that previous holders of that office had supplied as causing the slowdown, Landry effectively rebutted that with a written demonstration on how little time and effort it would take to review the petition for completeness, which is all the law asks.
Delaying the vote also saves the parish money, as having a standalone election in only certain parts of the parish costs more than tucking in the item on a ballot already with other items. However, this departed from precedent in 2005, when a special election created Central. This was the only election in the parish despite one just weeks earlier that included most of the parish’s precincts.
Edwards’ slow-walking gave a nod to his partisan allies such as East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome who desperately don’t want the petition to succeed. St. George contributes more to the city-parish than it takes out in services, so the portion of services the area subsidizes for the city of Baton Rouge goes away. This means Baton Rouge must finds ways of economizing or must raise taxes if losing the St. George tax base.
But that’s about all he can do. Anything more intrusive and it may anger voters from that area to vote against him, as he faces reelection on the same ballot which it now seems the incorporation vote will appear.
With only anecdotal evidence to back this up, opponents believe a heavier turnout gives them a better chance to defeat creating the city of around 80,000, which the Oct. 12 election should provide. However, that only means the odds go from almost no chance to next-to-no chance.
MacAoidh at The Hayride has gone over this to some extent, but the analysis deserves more clarification and amplification. The valid signatures comprise about 29 percent of the population. Except for the few who have moved out, bank on just about every one of them showing up and voting for incorporation. While a few politicians who want to sound like everything to all people claim they signed only to bring the matter to a vote, residents who have paid any attention to the issue aren’t agnostic about this: they either want it or don’t. If you don’t want it, you don’t want it ever coming to a vote, so you don’t sign. You put out the effort to sign only because you want it.
Thus, almost all signers will show up to vote affirmatively. Further, if anything, those who have moved into the area likely disproportionately will favor incorporation; indeed, some portion will move there in anticipation of it, more than offsetting those favoring it who moved out.
Consider also that in the 2015 state general elections, about 39 percent of the parish turned out. Given its presumed demographics, the St. George area probably will show up and vote on this measure at a bit higher rate. Keep in mind as well that the 2005 standalone Central election had a turnout of nearly 42 percent (a couple of split precincts dampened the figure slightly).
So, even if 45 percent voted on the measure, this will include the 29 percent of total registrants who signed the petition that would then comprise almost 65 percent of voters, meaning all the remainder could vote against it and it still would carry comfortably. Even if turnout zoomed to the 2016 parish-wide November election totals – unlikely without a presidential election on the ballot – of 68 percent, an unlikely three-quarters of non-signers who showed up would have to vote negatively to defeat it.
The measure will pass. Testing the degrees of bitterness and desperation to stop that, opponents might latch on to Sec. 1.05 of East Baton Rouge Parish’s Plan of Government, which allows only for the existing cities. Then again, that passage is blatantly unconstitutional, as Art. VI Sec. 8 of the Louisiana Constitution declares no parish plan of government may prevent incorporations and other parts say those kinds of documents cannot conflict with it.
Still, opponents may fight to the last breath in hopes of a miracle and challenge the inevitable passage (unless a planned review of the Plan puts forth amendments for that election that include eliminating the unconstitutional passage). It won’t work, and then it would take a ballot box miracle to prevent St. George.