This is how we get our news. Sometimes the Katrina effect is discussed directly; more often it is only implied. But it is a factor in every story, ranging from how we could have avoided it to what we are doing to stop the next storm.
The latest news about voting in the upcoming New Orleans’ elections may not mention Katrina directly, but the impact of the storm created a situation where a lot of well-minded citizens come down on opposite sides of several questions. Unfortunately, the differentiator between these groups is race. New Orleans was about 70 percent black before Katrina, and fewer than half of the city’s 465,000 inhabitants before the storm have come back.
The situation is unprecedented. Could you have imagined delaying a municipal election? What about letting people vote in ten other parishes in an election that directly affects only Orleans parish? And the majority of African-American votes are likely to come from Houston. Many of the voters live outside the City and have no intention of returning.
The arbiter in discussions relating to the fairness of elections is the U.S. Justice Department, and they have approved Louisiana’s plans for New Orleans’ first post-hurricane municipal election next month. The department approved the state’s attempts to locate hundreds of thousands of displaced voters with full-page newspaper ads nationwide, to make mail-in voting easy and to relocate polling precincts.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow-PUSH Coalition is protesting the decision, and Jackson has called for satellite polling stations to be set up in 44 states. However, Louisiana opted not to open polling stations outside the state, the Washington Times reported.
The April 22 ballot is complex, with 116 people running for 20 positions. More than 20 candidates are challenging Mayor Ray Nagin, and the seven sitting City Council members all drew opposition.
One of Nagin’s challengers is Orleans Clerk of Court Kimberly Butler who, as Clerk, is responsible for the logistics of election-day voting within the City. She has been less than confidence-inspiring; Council president Oliver Thomas said he prays every night that Butler can pull off a successful election.
My wife and son and I have previously voted near our house in New Orleans East. With all the damage in that area we expect that we will vote this time at one of the so-called “super-sites.”