ELMWOOD — As part of the recall of Jefferson Parish President
Mike Yenni, a suit has been filed to challenge the 600-foot perimeter
law to polling places.
According to The
Advocate, backers of the Yenni recall effort are asking for the
buffer to be reduced to 100 feet, allowing them to be closer to
polling places to gain the signatures they need by April 2017 to
recall the parish president.
The difference in the distances is
key near the courthouse location that would put signature gathers
several blocks from the polling location and make it almost
impossible for citizens to see their efforts.
“Down here in
Gretna, where the courthouse is, 100 feet and 600 feet literally make
the difference if people are going to see your recall notice and make
an informed decision if they are going to sign it or not or not see
it and not even know it’s going on,” Peter Russell, attorney at
McBride and Russell Law Firm LLC, told the Louisiana Record.
“When you’re talking 600 feet away that is going to put you
somewhere behind city hall. You’re talking almost three or four
blocks away from the actual site, and no one is going to see that
A Baton Rouge judge has decided to hear the case to
reduce the signature-efforts location, another Advocate article
but it brings a delicate balance of freedom of speech and the
possibility of coercion of votes.
“The fear is that if you’re
too close, you’re going to have coerced votes,” Russell said.
“People are going to vote or go a certain way because they feel
threatened or coerced in this case here of the recall of Mike Yenni.
The judge is going to weigh the balance of fair and impartial
elections against the First Amendment right to free speech.”
outcome of the case is critical and opens the doors to allowing other
groups protesting to be closer to businesses and organizations they
are objecting against.
“This here is an incredibly interesting
issue,” Russell said. “Louisiana does not have cases like this
very often, so it’s going to be a big case and very important
The outcome of the case does not take sides, Russell
“This is honestly not even a Republican or Democratic thing,”
he said. “It really comes done to individual belief on what they
think is a more important civil liberty.”
As for how the judge
is going to rule, Russell thinks the 600-foot rule will stand as a
judge needs to create an impartial arena for voters and the
possibility of coercion is too great and opens the doors to “dueling
banjos” for the election process.
“If I had to guess, I feel
in my gut because you want to protect the sanctity of the individual
vote from being free of coercion, I got to think they’re going to
say 600 feet stands,” said Russell.