[JURIST] US District Judge Ivan Lemelle will hold a hearing Monday to hear arguments from civil rights groups that the upcoming April 22 municipal elections in New Orleans [JURIST news archive] should be postponed because many African-American residents have been displaced outside Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] and will be unable to vote. Lemelle has already dismissed a challenge to the election plan, but agreed to reconsider his ruling to determine if the scheduled election [JURIST report], which was originally slated to take place on February 4, should be postponed again. The state has taken steps to set up polling stations in 10 Louisiana cities, relax voting rules allowing displaced citizens to vote by absentee ballot, and support advertisements to inform displaced voters of the upcoming elections.
The NAACP [advocacy website] and other civil rights leaders have argued against the plan [JURIST report], saying it involves the equivalent of an illegal poll tax [Wikipedia backgrounder] since many displaced black voters will need to pay for transportation costs in order to make it back to Louisiana to cast their ballots. Approximately 43,000 registered voters have indicated that they are now living outside the state and current Louisiana law does not allow out-of-state voting operations. Earlier this month, the US Justice Department invoked its authority under the 1965 Voting Rights Act [DOJ backgrounder] to approve the elections [JURIST report] as scheduled for April 22. The Louisiana Secretary of State [official website] has information on the displaced voters plan. AP has more.