Thousands Denied Voting Rights in New Orleans

May 23, 2006 – New Orleans voters reelected former Mayor Ray Nagin in their first municipal election since Hurricane Katrina, however, thousands of displaced residents were unable to vote due to the absence of out-of-state polling places. 

Earlier this year, the Bush Justice Department approved an election plan that allowed only three ways of voting; voting in New Orleans, in satellite polling places around Louisiana or by absentee ballot. No accommodation was made for the thousands of New Orleans residents still living outside Louisiana and unable to return home.

In March, a Louisiana State Senate committee rejected a bill that would have created satellite polling places in other states housing Katrina evacuees. Of the 102,000 voters eligible to vote by absentee ballot or in early voting, only 26,000 voted, according to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a voting rights advocacy group.

“The decision to deny voting rights to thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees is the latest example of the federal government’s inadequate response to the greatest natural disaster to ever hit an American city,” said IAM Executive Assistant Diane Babineaux. “Every effort should be made to ensure the right to vote is restored for every citizen of New Orleans before the upcoming mid-tem and general elections.”