Thursday, March 09, 2006
Lawmaker says election violates voter rights
Fields seeks to block April 22 vote in N.O.
By Jeff Duncan
After failing in the courts and the Legislature, opponents of New Orleans' April 22 municipal elections have taken their fight to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In a seven-page letter sent Tuesday, state Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, asked John Tanner, the voting section chief in the Justice Department's civil rights division, to block the already-postponed elections because they violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Fields and his allies say not enough has been done to ensure that displaced New Orleanians, most of whom are African-American, will have an equal chance to participate in the election, and that changes in voting sites and procedures will lead to a reduction in black voting strength even among people living in the city.
The official complaint was made public by the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Wednesday at a news conference held by his Rainbow PUSH Coalition at Central City's Israelite Baptist Church. Several community and religious leaders attended the event.
"This election is undemocratic," Jackson said in a phone interview later in the day.
In his letter, Fields said the Justice Department "has no choice but to object" to the election.