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Federal judge urges state, local officials to expedite New Orleans mayor elections

[JURIST] US District Judge Ivan Lemelle [profile] Tuesday urged federal and state officials to work together and quickly set a date for the postponed New Orleans [official website; December 23 official situation report] mayoral primary elections at a hearing of a lawsuit challenging the postponement of the primary. He said a vote would encourage a sense of normalcy, noting that although he did not want to take over the electoral process if different governmental levels could not agree, he would do so if necessary. Originally scheduled for February 4, local elections officials called off the primary due to the destruction of polling stations, dispersal of election-day workers and the difficulty of contacting evacuees after Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. Louisiana Secretary of State Al Ater said last week that he would push for holding the New Orleans vote no later than the end of September [press release, PDF] and on Tuesday said that elections could take place as early as April 1. The election date is contingent upon US Justice Department approval of a new state law that loosens restrictions on election laws, considering the problems Katrina created. The Federal Emergency Management Agency [official website] recently eased the election tensions by handing over a computer disk of the names and contact information of evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, making it easier for Ater’s office to contact them. AP has more.

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