New Orleans Elections

Despite calls for a delay, officials are moving forward with New Orleans elections set for April 22nd. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports officials and grass roots efforts are starting to reach out to evacuees to get them to vote.

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The Metropolitan Oraganization is one group that is leading an effort to organize absentee New Orleans voters in Houston. New Orleans resident Thomas Wells says they'll be going to apartment complexes, churches and schools to hand out election forms to evacuees. Wells says it can be difficult for Katrina evacuees to get the necessary information.

"Because a lot of stuff that may be coming from Louisiana, they may not even get it. So this is why we are giving it all our attention to make sure that we here you know do everything in our power to make sure they get exactly what they need to have to make their voice be heard."

Wells says the VOICE campaign hopes to sign up ten-thousand voters. New Orleans TMO officials see the upcoming elections as a referendum on the current rebuilding plan. The group also hopes to hold meetings with all the candidates running for mayor.The Louisiana Secretary of State will assist the local election officials. Secretary Al Ater says the absentee ballot is just one way for evacuees to vote.

"They can request a ballot up to the day before the election and can fax the ballot in the day of the election."

The legislature also approved satellite voting locations for early voting. The closest to Houston will be Lake Charles. Ater says they really have no idea what the turn-out will be like, but they are preparing for a large turn-out.

"We felt it would be the responsible and appropriate thing to do since the eyes of the world will be on this election, that we're going to gear up and expect large numbers of absentee by mail, large numbers of early voting and large numbers on election day."

Ater says they'll be launching an education campaign to inform displaced voters of the options they have to cast a ballot. Texas Southern University Political Science Professor Sandrs Anderson Junior is one who believes the elections should be postponed.

"I think it would be very difficult, although some people think not, we are almost on March, and they are jut now deciding what it is they are going to do. I think the election needs to be at least delayed perhaps month to give people an opportunity to become more informed and understand what their options are."

Anderson also believes there should be more satellite voting locations where evacuees are living. Many evacuees have said they plan to call their new locations home. It'll be difficult to tell how many of those will register to vote here considering voter registration cards do not ask about previous residencies.

The Louisiana Secretary of State has a hot line number for election questions, it is 1-800-883-2805. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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