Friday, February 24, 2006
By KEVIN McGILL
The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge refused Friday to postpone the April 22 mayoral election in New Orleans, turning back arguments that not enough has been done to ensure participation by the city's mostly black population dispersed by Hurricane Katrina.
Secretary of State Al Ater, Louisiana's top election official, said the state has done everything possible to ensure displaced New Orleans residents can vote and that there will be strong participation by black voters.
Ater said the state has undertaken a $1.5 million information campaign to inform and educate displaced voters about the process.
At issue was whether laws passed in a recent special legislative session were adequate to protect minority voting rights.
Those laws loosened absentee voting restrictions so that people who have never before voted in person at a precinct can still vote absentee by mail. They also set up voting places at 10 locations around the state for displaced New Orleanians to vote.
Washington said that The Advancement Project, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, and other organizations wanted voting precincts established for New Orleans voters in other states. Ater said that could not be done by April 22.
The dispersal of voters and the question of what percentage of the city's black voters will take part in the election appears to have significantly altered New Orleans politics. The city has not had a white mayor since 1978 but out of about a dozen announced candidates in the current race, only two — incumbent Ray Nagin and minister Tom Watson — are black.
Washington was uncertain Friday whether Lemelle's decision would be appealed.
LPNS COMMENTARY: QUESTIONS OF THE DAY: $1,500,000 FOR ADVERTISING? WHO IS DOING THIS? WHAT ARE THEY DOING/WHERE? HOW MUCH ARE THEY BEING PAID?
HOW MANY TAXPAYER DOLLARS PER ABSENTEE VOTE CAST WILL OUR DEMOCRAT SECRETARY OF STATE SPEND IN THIS EFFORT?
FINALLY, COULD THIS VERY LARGE AMOUNT OF MONEY BE BETTER SPENT ON THE EVACUEES REAL NEEDS?