Lafayette city council candidates are currently stuck in a position where they must campaign without exactly knowing who lies within their to-be districts.
Claire Taylor with the Advocate wrote an article detailing how Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office has yet to release the lists of registered voters in Lafayette. Because the lists are not out, city council candidates are having a harder time campaigning than they would normally.
The article described the struggles of District 1 Lafayette City Council candidate Sarah Roy. She told the Advocate how, if she were to campaign on her constituents’ doorsteps, she would have to resort to knocking on random people’s doors.
Political science student Sophia Davis, who works on Roy’s campaign, said the refusal to release the lists seems as if it is politically charged, as not only has it been confirmed Ardoin’s office has had the new districts since March and the fact that these lists in the past had been released much earlier.
“It’s just kind of a courtesy to the candidates running, because that’s really important information that could really help a candidate out,” Davis said.
“With being a candidate, and wanting to reach out to the people in your district who actually go out and vote, that’s just the best way to go and get your name out there and feel what the people in the district need, what they want, what their concerns are, and having those voter logs is the best way to go about that,” Davis added.
Davis also said campaigning is possible without the lists. Roy has used her time to prepare things like her website, social media and yard signs; she has also reached out to several community leaders and business owners.
The withholding of the lists is only part of a larger saga that started when the voters chose to separate the city-parish council into a city council and parish council via a home rule charter amendment back in December of 2018.
It later was made public in February 2019 that there was a clerical error in how the charter described the districts, and a neighborhood of about 300 citizens was left unaccounted for and, thus, unrepresented. The council determined the error was merely a mistake and opted to fix it with an ordinance.
Ardoin, along with Keith Kishbaugh, argued the charter could only be fixed with a vote of the people, and went on to sue. The suits lost, and both Ardoin and Kishbaugh went on to appeal. Both appeals also lost. Ardoin and Kishbaugh then filed requests for the Louisiana Supreme Court to hear the lawsuit with a request to resolve it before July 22.
Ardoin later addressed the article on the Moon Griffon Show on June 12, saying the list is not complete and he had no intention of releasing an inaccurate list. He later added the Advocate article was “agenda-driven” and he is “not going to back down for political purposes.”
Ardoin also said he legally does not have to release the list until five days before qualifying October election, and qualifying will happen on Aug. 6-8.
Although this is true, Christie Maloyed, Ph.D., political science professor at UL Lafayette, said the lists have almost always been released months in advance in past elections.
“I will say this, it’s not every election that the district lines completely change; that’s a genuine difference,” Maloyed said. “I can say I’ve heard the Registrar of voters speak at a city council meeting and say she had finalized all of the districts, and she has sent that information over to the secretary of state’s office. So they’ve had the information for a while, they’ve just been slow to do anything with it.”
Maloyed added she does not expect the Supreme Court to agree that the charter should go back to a citizen vote, as it could open up a “Pandora’s Box of problems.”
“It would actually be a hot mess if the Louisiana Supreme Court said, ‘We need to send this back to the voters,’” Maloyed said. “Let’s say it did go back to the voters, and the voters said, ‘No, we don’t want to change the district lines,’ then you would have 300 people who would have no district, which would be an absolute civil rights crisis. So it seems to me unlikely on those grounds that the Supreme Court would go that route.”