- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Louisiana officials yesterday postponed local elections scheduled for Oct. 15, citing a lack of equipment and manpower.

“Right now, because of Hurricane Katrina and its resulting aftermath, we don’t have the machines, personnel, or electorate in place to properly conduct a fair election in these affected areas,” said Al Ater, Louisiana’s secretary of state. “We will reschedule these elections at the appropriate time.”

The cancellation affects judicial candidates, a school board race and one council seat in the parishes of Orleans and Jefferson, special propositions for tax increases for security patrols in two neighborhoods, and a “beautification, security and overall betterment” tax increase in eastern New Orleans.

According to Louisiana law, an office holder remains at his or her post until a successor is sworn into office.

Mandatory evacuation after the storm also leaves the state short on voters, prompting the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to begin organizing New Orleans evacuees in shelters across the country to ensure they can vote in the Orleans Parish mayoral race in February and a congressional race in 2006.

Ellen Davis, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Republican Party, said getting elections back on track and ensuring legal residents can cast votes will be a “logistical nightmare.”

“Our country has never seen anything like this, we have entire counties that are without a population,” Mrs. Davis said.

Democratic Rep. William J. Jefferson of New Orleans, the only black member of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, faces re-election next year.

With Louisiana voters scattered among 300 shelters in 24 states, black leaders fear a permanent exodus reminiscent of the 1927 Mississippi River flood, when hundreds of black residents fled the region.

President Bush carried Louisiana with 57 percent of the vote in 2004. Statewide, white voters outnumber black voters, nearly 1.8 million versus 780,000, and Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1. In New Orleans, there are about 63,000 white voters — more than half of whom are Democrats — and 143,000 black voters.

New Orleans Democrats showed their strength in the 2002 runoff election between Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, and Republican Elections Commissioner Suzanne Terrell. Voter turnout statewide was low, but 40,000 New Orleans voters gave Mrs. Landrieu her margin of victory.

Marc Morial, former New Orleans mayor and president of the National Urban League, yesterday asked the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to create a Katrina victim’s Bill of Rights for the evacuees, that would among other assistance ensure future voting rights.

“We must continue to have voting rights in the state, not to politicize this, but they must have a voice in the rebuilding effort in the community from which they have been displaced,” Mr. Morial said.

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