Legislative study continues into La. Registrar of Voters

Legislative study continues into La. Registrar of Voters

A study continues into the men and women who register people to vote in Louisiana. Questions about lifetime employment, self evaluations and built in pay raises brought a group of lawmakers back to the Capitol Wednesday.

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - "We're off to a really good start," said Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur.

But at the same time, the Registrar of Voters who attended Wednesday's meeting want to keep what they do out of the public eye.

Brian Champagne from St. Charles Parish was the only Registrar of Voters (ROV) who spoke to the group of legislators considering reform. The study in large part stems from a 9News Investigative Report by Lee Zurik raising questions like have the ROV offices become a lifetime position.

"The constitution doesn't say for life.  The constitution says that they cannot be removed by the appointing authority," said Kyle Ardoin, First Asst. Secretary of State.

New questions inspired lawmakers to take a closer look.

But Wednesday, there was little debate as leaders stood by the ROVs, commending their work.

"I really believe this is one of the top positions in the parish," said Rep. Johnny Bertholet, R-Gonzales.

The group approved all recommendations put before them, essentially tweaks to how the ROV offices work.

Unlike many people, Registrar of Voters get to evaluate themselves. And as long as they give themselves an "excellent" rating, they get a pay raise. This year, all but two of the state's 64 ROVs have rated themselves "excellent."

"I think that's a little unfair. It's somewhat unrealistic in the real world," said Steven Buchholz, an LSU sophomore and member of the US Air Force. Under the system, the ROV in Shreveport earned more than $183,000 last year, the highest paid in the state.

Now, lawmakers want to withhold pay raises under certain circumstances, create stricter qualifications to be appointed and an 800 number for the public to report any issues to their ROV. But in terms of an essential lifetime appointment, there does not seem to be any notion for change.

"Certainly, the ROVs, we do not want them to be an elected position being that they would be subjected to the political pressures of being an elected official," said Rep. Danahay.

Rep. Danahay says all recommendations approved Wednesday will be used to craft new legislation next session.

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