NEW ORLEANS — Belden Batiste says he is awaiting a judge’s ruling in a case where he filed a civil rights violation suit after his name was pulled from the ballot in a citywide election, but no matter what the verdict he plans to keep fighting for the principles he believes in.
“The judge said she will mail us her decision in a letter,” Batiste told the Louisiana Record following his Jan. 3 court appearance. “But we’re up against a political machine; so, the fight has to continue, regardless of the decision here.”
Batiste, who was running for the city council, filed suit along with Orleans Parish assessor candidate Anthony Brown, naming several state officials as defendants after both men's candidacies were challenged for failure to file income tax returns. Claiming violations of the Voting Rights Act, they are now seeking $10 billion in damages.
Batiste said that he has long suffered from a blood disorder that requires that he take daily medication. He said he now receives disability payments from Social Security and does not have to file income taxes. He added he now resides with his aunt, who legally claims him as a dependent on her tax filings.
An electrician by trade, NOLA.com reports that 46-year-old Brown contends he has not earned enough to file taxes in two of the last five years.
“If I have to go to 5th Circuit with this, I will,” Batiste said. “I’m bringing to light how they regularly violate your rights. They don’t want righteousness in office. Right now, there’s so much corruption in New Orleans it’s unbelievable.”
Batiste said he was set to challenge Democratic incumbent Jared Brossett in District D before he was disqualified. In all, he and Brown were among seven candidates who private citizens sued after the July qualifying period, with all the cases centering on the same contention that each of those accused had failed to file tax returns in a timely fashion.
“We’re letting this play out and awaiting the judge’s decision,” Batiste said. “But the idea of allowing grassroots people to be locked out of the political process here in New Orleans is not something I will stand for. I will stand up on every issue. I was raised doing this. This is about justice.”