METAIRIE, La. – A Metairie attorney who is heading
the recall efforts of a parish president is working toward another fight: Allowing petition solicitors to be within 100 feet of polling places.
Robby Evans III filed a lawsuit Nov. 3 asking a Jefferson Parish
judge to allow recall workers to stand 100 feet from polling places, despite a
state law requiring a 600-foot distance. Evans says a 1995 Louisiana Supreme
Court ruling determined the 600 feet requirement was unconstitutional but is
still being enforced thanks to a constitutional amendment loophole.
Now Evans wants a judge to determine once and for all that
100 feet is legally acceptable for solicitors to stand.
“The court already ruled that 600 feet is too far and unconstitutional,”
Evans told The Louisiana Record. “But
the legislation has ignored it.”
Evans is spearheading the effort to recall Jefferson Parish
President Mike Yenni. The president is facing allegations he was sexting
with a high school student in 2015 when the boy was 17. At the time
Yenni was mayor of Kenner and campaigning for his current position.
Evans said he was disgusted by the allegations and, as a
father of four boys, believed he needed to do something to remove
Yenni from office. He started a recall petition and in the process discovered
his volunteers were not allowed within 600 feet of a polling place.
In 1995 the state Supreme Court determined the 600-feet
rule was “unconstitutionally overbroad.” In the following years, state
legislators amended the rule but did not issue a new numerical distance
determining how far away workers could stand. Evans said this made the new law
constitutional but not substantive.
“The recall effort made me realize the need to change the
statute,” Evans said. “I’m a lawyer and I go to court to make sure people have
justice. When I see there’s a law that they know is unconstitutional
and they keep it on the books, I’m going to make sure in the future people have
access and freedom for their voices to be heard.”
He said he’s filed two lawsuits. The first in Jefferson
Parish directly relating to the recall effort and the polling place issue. That
case had an injunction hearing Monday, where Evans hopes a judge will find
the law in Jefferson Parish is unconstitutional.
Evans also filed a lawsuit in state court asking a judge to
rule that the current state law is unconstitutional.
“We have a law that’s been ruled unconstitutional but stayed
on the books for the last 10 years, and I need to get it declared
unconstitutional,” he said. “In the bigger picture, for the future – that’s
really why I’m doing it.”
He said despite the limits the recall effort has been going
strong. In four weeks of getting signatures, Evans said he’s collected half
of the 90,000 signatures required. Signatures need to be collected by mid-April
to force a referendum removing Yenni as president.
“I felt like I had a
burden, a moral obligation to do something,” he said. “Voters want to come and
sign, they’re going to the polls asking ‘Where do I sign the recall?’ They
believe they should have access to the petition to recall Mike Yenni.”