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NAACP urges Justice Department to block New Orleans elections under Voting Rights Act

[JURIST] The president of the NAACP [advocacy website] called on the US Justice Department Monday to block New Orleans mayoral elections currently scheduled [JURIST report] for April 22, saying they would be "illegal" because the state of Louisiana "cannot guarantee or provide some level of insurance that a substantial percentage of New Orleans voters will be able to vote either by absentee ballot or in person." The Justice Department must pre-clear the elections under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In a letter to the Department, Bruce S. Gordon [NAACP profile] said that "Holding the election on April 22 under the current plans would seriously harm the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of New Orleans citizens, most of whom are African Americans who have been displaced and are still residing temporarily outside the city and outside the state." He has suggested setting up polling places in cities with large numbers of displaced New Orleans’ residents, like Atlanta and Houston, and said the NAACP was "prepared to bus displaced voters back to New Orleans to vote in next month’s elections if the state does not approve of out-of-state satellite voting locations." Read the NAACP press statement, along with a March 2 letter [PDF] to US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking for help to insure that displaced New Orleans minorities have a "fair opportunity" to vote.

Louisiana Secretary of State Al Ater [official website] disagrees with Gordon, promising that “this will be the most accessible race in the history of America." Primary races were originally scheduled for February 4, but were postponed because election workers were scattered and polling stations were destroyed due to Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. AP has more.

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