Susan Jones | Senior Editor | Friday, March 31, 2006
The devastated city is holding municipal elections on Saturday, April 22, but tens of thousands of people flooded out of their homes now live somewhere else. And in another complication, the DNC says more than 100 polling places were destroyed in the flood, resulting in fewer voting precincts.
"These problems could potentially prevent New Orleans residents the opportunity to vote in an election that will determine the future of their city," the DNC said in a press release.
The Democrat Party has set up toll-free numbers to give voters information about absentee ballot applications, polling place locations in New Orleans, and early-voting satellite locations elsewhere in Louisiana.
The DNC said it will start running ads next week to publicize the new toll free number.
"You may have lost your home. You may have even lost a loved one. But you have not lost your right to vote," the ad says.
The public service announcements will air on African-American radio stations in Houston, Atlanta, and Baton Rouge. The ads were recorded by New Orleans native and Democrat operative Donna Brazile.
"This new toll free number will help all New Orleans voters cast their ballot and have their vote counted," said DNC Chairman Dean. "Democrats believe every effort must be made to provide all the necessary information about the elections to all Orleans Parish voters, whether they are currently in or out of the state."
"These upcoming municipal elections are part of the rebuilding process and a key step in restoring these communities," said DNC Voting Rights Institute Chair Brazile. "We applaud the outstanding work of the civil rights community, the Congressional Black Caucus, fraternities, sororities, churches and our allies in labor who have been working endlessly for months to ensure that all displaced voters have the right to vote."
On Saturday, the Revs. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, NAACP President Bruce Gordon, entertainer Harry Belafonte, and a host of other civil rights leaders and lawmakers will lead a protest march in New Orleans. Their request to have satellite polling stations set up in states surrounding Louisiana was denied, and given concerns about "black disenfranchisement," they want the April 22 New Orleans municipal election to be postponed.
On Monday, a federal judge rejected the request to delay the municipal election. "I recognize that there is still room for improvement in that electoral process," U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle said in court. "If you are a displaced citizen, like I am, we have a burning desire for completeness."
Judge Lemelle's home also was flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"To hold the New Orleans election on April 22 would violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and disenfranchise thousands of voters forced to evacuate their homes because of Hurricane Katrina," the NAACP's Gordon said. "If provisions can be made to allow Iraqi and Mexican expatriates to vote in their national elections then surely we can do no less for American citizens forced to relocate through no fault of their own."
The NAACP, with assistance from People for the American Way Foundation, has opened 14 voter assistance centers in states such as Texas, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi and Alabama.
See Earlier Stories:
Voter Disenfranchisement Predicted in New Orleans (9 Mar. 2006)
NAACP Opposes New Orleans Elections Process (10 Mar. 2006)