Shanie Bourg appointed Ascension Parish Registrar of Voters

Michael Tortorich

Shanie Bourg has been appointed Registrar of Voters by the Ascension Parish Council.

Newly-appointed Registrar of Voters Shanie Bourg, left, poses with Clerk of Court Bridget Hanna.

She was chosen from an original field of 17 candidates after a three-night interview process that ended March 4 at the Courthouse Annex in Gonzales.

Such an appointment is rare. Retired Registrar of Voters Robert Poche was appointed 37 years ago, Council Chair Teri James Casso said in opening the interviews.

Officials have called it ultimately a job for life. The council developed a process with a focus on fairness in selecting from the candidates.

The 15 questions were divided into three sets. No questions were repeated on another night.

The council meeting chambers did not have an audience, and the video of the interviews were not made available online until after the entire process was complete. Recorded videos were posted to the Ascension21 YouTube channel late March 4.

Bourg was the third individual interviewed March 2. She said she has served as Director of Election Operations for the Louisiana Secretary of State since 2009.

“I love elections. I’m very passionate about this and I’ve been doing it for almost 18 years. There’s not a whole lot I don’t know about it,” Bourg said in her interview.

She stressed the importance of integrity and transparency in the voting process.

“I don’t think the public knows enough about the process of our elections. I don’t think they are aware that everything we do is a public meeting,” she said to the council.

Bourg expressed pride in the checks and balances, as well as the time and effort, that goes into the voting process.

“It is extremely important to me that the voters in this parish and this state know that their vote is counting, and counting accurately. If you have any questions, it’s an open book. All you have to do is ask, and we can show you anything you want to know,” she said.

The council’s John Cagnolatti asked about low voter turnout in local elections.

“I think people are not informed of the small elections. Those are the elections that matter. That’s when your daily life is affected, and so many don’t get out and vote because they don’t know about them. That’s got to change," she said.

Bourg suggested boosting the office’s online presence, and utilizing physical signs around the parish.

After a recess March 4, the council and the candidates all returned to the chambers.

Casso announced the three finalists as Bourg, Joanne Reed, and Murphy Painter.

 A well-known local figure, Painter has some three decades of experience in public administration. For 14 years, he was over the state’s Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. He worked three years in investigations for the Attorney General. And he served 17 years with the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, ascending to Chief Deputy.

Reed worked 20 years with the Louisiana Secretary of State as Director of Voter Registration. She also worked a decade as an Officer Supervisor with the East Baton Rouge Registrar of Voters. In 2017, she was Chief Deputy Registrar in EBR.

The three finalists each had five minutes to address the council.

Bourg said she would like to audit the precinct boundaries and descriptions to make sure all voters are in the correct districts.

“That’s not an easy task. That’s something that would probably take at least two to four months to accomplish, but it’s something I feel is really important to do,” she said.

Later in the address, Bourg said her heart is in Ascension Parish.

“This is where I’m from. My roots are here. I was born at Prevost Hospital in Donaldsonville. I really would like to be home. My son is 12 and he spent a lot of time at home by himself last year while I worked all of these hours,” she said.

Painter followed, pointing out that the registrar position is one of the most important jobs in government.

“I’ve been a professional all my life. I have no axes to grind or grudges against anybody in public office. Politics is a funny thing. And in Louisiana it’s even funnier than some other places in the world,” Painter said.

Reed concluded the trio of speakers. She said her 32 years of overall experience qualified her for the job.

“Based on my credentials, qualifications, and experience, I feel I am prepared to serve and excel as your Registrar of Voters,” Reed said.

The six votes for Bourg came from Alvin “Coach” Thomas, Chase Melancon, Dal Waguespack, Michael Mason, Travis Turner, and Teri Casso. Painter received two votes from Dempsey Lambert and Aaron Lawler. Reed had a pair of votes from Joel Robert and John Cagnolatti. Corey Orgeron was absent throughout the three-night process.

Casso cast the final and deciding vote for Bourg.

“Thank you all so much. This means so much to me. I will not disappoint you. I promise you will get more than you ever thought you would out of me,” Bourg said in an emotional closing statement.