- Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

FERRIDAY, La. (AP) - Former Louisiana Secretary of State Al Ater, who helped make sure evacuated New Orleans voters could cast ballots months after hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck in 2005, has died at the age of 63.

Ater was a Democrat from Ferriday when he was elected to the House in 1983 at age 29. He served until 1992, choosing not to run for re-election.

Ater went back to private business in Ferriday, where he farmed and ran an insurance agency. He returned to government as an assistant to Secretary of State under Fox McKeithen in 2001. He served for a time in the Department of Insurance but later returned to work for McKeithen.

He became interim secretary of state when McKeithen died in 2005. A month later, Hurricane Katrina hit, followed by Hurricane Rita, causing widespread evacuations of south Louisiana residents to other states.

Ater overcame legal barriers and other obstacles to make sure New Orleans evacuees could vote in municipal elections in 2006, stressing that the evacuated voters had moved because of a disaster, not because they chose to change their address.

“At the Secretary of State’s Office he is remembered for his exemplary leadership after Hurricane Katrina in pulling off the New Orleans Mayoral Election under extraordinary conditions, making Louisiana the model for emergency preparedness for voting,” Secretary of State Tom Schedler said.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/2rISDQJ ) that Ater died Sunday at a Houston hospice after treatment for brain cancer.

Young’s Funeral Home in Ferriday said funeral arrangements for Ater were pending Monday.

“He had more common sense than anyone I’ve been around. He could get to the heart of an issue in about two seconds,” said Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish. “Al was plenty forceful. But he was kind. And he didn’t scare.”

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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