NAACP: Postpone New Orleans Election

The Associated Press
Saturday, February 18, 2006; 2:59 PM

NEW YORK -- The Department of Justice should postpone upcoming elections in New Orleans until displaced voters have been located, NAACP officials said Saturday.

"We're worried about the voting rights of our people in New Orleans who are not, for the most part, in New Orleans," said Bruce S. Gordon, NAACP president. "People should still have a say in what happens in the communities that were ravaged by Katrina."

Last week, Gordon asked U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to make sure election procedures are fair. The Voting Rights Act allows federal officials to scrutinize election changes that may hurt minorities.

"If it requires us to take legal action, we will fight this," Gordon said.

A Justice department spokesman did not return calls seeking comment.

Officials of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, speaking at the organization's annual board meeting, also called on Congress to renew parts of the Voting Rights Act that are due to expire next year and criticized the recent selection of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

Alito is a "radical judicial activist, a man hostile to civil rights and women's rights," said Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP.

Last week, Louisiana lawmakers approved plans to set up satellite voting centers in 10 state parishes and allow evacuees to vote by absentee ballot in the April 22 city elections. NAACP officials said that date is too soon.

Barely one-third of residents have returned to Orleans Parish, which was two-thirds black before Hurricane Katrina, according to estimates from the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. Tens of thousands of displaced people are still without permanent housing and mail delivery is delayed.

"Protecting voting rights is going to depend on the absentee ballot process," said John H. Jackson, NAACP chief policy officer. "The state has the burden of showing that they have accurate information for locating them. We don't want to have those ballots go out and have them never connect with individuals."

Kwame I. Asante, president of the NAACP's Baton Rouge branch, said: "We've received many calls from people who are asking, 'Where do we go? How do we register to vote?' ... It's too soon for many people."


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