Archive for Friday, March 17, 2006

New Orleans election plan gets approval

March 17, 2006

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— Over the bitter objections of some black leaders, the U.S. Justice Department approved a plan Thursday for New Orleans' first elections since Hurricane Katrina.

The department still needs to approve a few polling place changes but otherwise gave its blessing to plans to have elections for mayor, City Council and other posts on April 22. Department officials also said they would send observers to monitor the balloting.

Black leaders have charged that Louisiana officials have not done enough to ensure that voters scattered by the storm will be able to vote. The state plans to set up satellite polling places across the state for New Orleans residents driven from their homes, but chose not to create such stations outside Louisiana.

"Two-thirds of the eligible population has been disenfranchised," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said after the Justice Department decision. "This is more onerous than the poll tax laws of 1965."

The civil rights leader said he would organize marches and sue to block the election.

New Orleans was about 70 percent black before Katrina, and some blacks fear they will lose political power if the elections go forward now, when less than half of the city's 465,000 inhabitants before the storm have come back.

The mayoral election was originally scheduled for Feb. 4 but was postponed because of the damage and dislocation caused by Katrina.

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