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Efforts underway to recall southwest Louisiana town's mayor

ELTON, La. (AP) — Amid allegations of election irregularities and fraud, a group is seeking to remove the first-term mayor of a southwest Louisiana town.

Organizers of a recall petition against Elton Mayor Kesia Skinner Lemoine filed paperwork Tuesday with the Louisiana Secretary of State's Office, news outlets reported.

Brandon Kelley, who faced Lemoine in a Dec. 10 mayoral runoff election, told the American Press that the group is seeking to remove Lemoine from office after questions surfaced about the Nov. 8, 2022, mayoral election. An investigation by KPLC-TV found voters who were claiming homestead exemptions in other parishes, some who were registered to vote using vacant lots, and others using addresses of homes that didn’t exist. The investigation found nearly three dozen people with questionable voting credentials.

“If they found that there were enough fraudulent votes to change the outcome of the election, of course, the people of Elton’s voices were not heard,” Kelley said.

Lemoine defeated Kelley 211-178 in last year’s runoff following the November primary election in which she had 142 votes and Kelley had 141. Brandilyn Soileau, another candidate in the mayor's race and chairman of the recall committee, garnered 80 votes while Jared “FireCracker” Trahan had 74.

To trigger a recall election, the committee needs to collect 40%, or 276 of the 689 registered voters who live within the town limits, according to the Jeff Davis Parish Registrar of Voters office.

“All we have to go on right now is word of mouth, but a lot of people are fairly upset in finding out that there were some election fraud going on,” Kelley said. “Transparency should be a big part of city government. We need to make sure that everything is transparent and that if anything wrong has been found, to right the wrong. This isn’t a witch hunt out for anybody. It is just to make sure that the people of Elton’s voices were accurately heard.”

Lemoine declined to comment on the recall effort.

Because the town electorate is under 1,000, the recall must be completed no later than 90 days following a confirmation letter from the Secretary of State's office. The state requires all the signatures to be handwritten and include the voter’s physical address. The Registrar of Voters Office must certify the signatures before the petition is forwarded to the governor. If the required number of signatures is met, the governor has 15 days to call a recall election.