Recall Legislation Making Incremental Progress at Louisiana Legislature


While supporters of the effort to recall Mayor LaToya Cantrell might not have met their goal, they are making progress in changing the rules under which recalls operate in Louisiana. On the House side, HB 212 by State Rep. Paul Hollis of Covington passed the House floor Wednesday, May 17, with broad, bi-partisan support 71-29. New Orleans State Rep. Aimee Freeman voted in favor of the legislation. Most other legislators who represent voters in Orleans Parish opposed it. The bill is now waiting to be heard in the Senate & Governmental Committee where it should receive favorable treatment.

If signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards, HB 212 will change the formula which determines how many electors are needed for a recall petition to be placed on the ballot. Under the proposed law in densely populated parishes like Orleans, Jefferson and East Baton Rouge, 50 percent of the electors who cast their ballot when the public official was elected would have to sign the petition in order for a recall to move forward.

Looking back to Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s November 2021 re-election, 75,325 votes were cast which would have required 37,663 petition signatures if the proposed law had been in place.  The recent Cantrell recall campaign had a goal of 44,975 signatures which they did not meet. Cantrell said last week she was not familiar with Hollis’ legislation and had no interest in it.Cantrell won her recall battle and the issue could be dead in her eyes.

Supports of the recall were blindsided by a last-minute floor amendment to HB 212 that increased the percentage of signatures needed from 30 percent to 50 percent.  When the bill was heard in committee, many testified that even 30 percent was a far higher threshold that in other states. Yet others spoke in favor of 50 percent.

Hollis could have agreed to or even negotiated the tougher floor amendment to appease his fellow Republicans who officially wanted to support legislation like the recall in an election year but did not want to increase their personal chances of being recalled in the future. It has been an ongoing concern that Governor Edwards could choose to veto the legislation. Although the governor has not make public statements on the legislation, he may be more comfortable with a higher threshold.

State Sen. Cameron Henry of Metairie authored SB 123 which clarifies many of the operational details that govern the recall process.  Henry worked closely with the statewide registrar of voters association in crafting his legislation. HB 123 was easily approved in the State Senate and is pending in the House & Governmental Committee.  By partnering with the registrars Henry was able to address concerns from legislators and facilitate the legislation’s acceptance.

Together the two bills will make the rules for a recall in Louisiana much clearer and more manageable. The proposed laws might not encompass everything supporters wanted, but they will be viewed as an incremental victory that can be built upon.

Recalls are popular in a number of states including Michiganwhich holds recall elections most frequently. According to Ballotpedia, of the 39 states that allow for the recall of elected officials at some level of government, 20 states allow gubernatorial recalls.  The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that the first recall election took place in Los Angeles in 1903. In 1908, Michigan and Oregon were the first states to adopt recall procedures for state officials. Minnesota and New Jersey were the most recent.


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