Friday, March 17, 2006
By Bruce Eggler
Despite objections by some prominent black leaders that much of New Orleans' displaced black population will be unable to participate in the city's April 22 election, the U.S. Justice Department on Thursday approved state and city leaders' plans for the election.
The department gave the plans "preclearance" under the terms of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which requires that it review all proposed changes in voting procedures in Louisiana and other Southern states to ensure the changes will not discriminate against black voters or reduce black electoral strength.
The department's action drew immediate fire from several civil rights and liberal political groups, which have contended in lawsuits and public statements that not enough is being done to ensure that tens of thousands of black voters displaced by Hurricane Katrina will be able to participate in one of the most crucial elections in the city's history.
Even Mayor Ray Nagin said recently that he might challenge the election results, depending on whether he wins or loses his bid for re-election.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson voiced outrage at the department's action. "This decision leaves two-thirds of the citizens disenfranchised," he said, renewing his promise to hold an April 1 rally in the city in support of all New Orleanians' rights to return, to vote and to rebuild their homes.