Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund Files Lawsuit on Katrina Anniversary to Halt Purging of Displaced Louisiana Voters

On August 29, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) filed a lawsuit to protect the right of eligible voters to participate in upcoming elections in Louisiana, including those who remain displaced as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Under orders from Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, voter registrars purged more than 21,000 voters from voter rolls throughout the state. The suit aims to stop the state from further implementation of this purge program and order that the state reinstate the voter registration of all individuals who have been purged from the rolls.

"It is well known that many of those who remain displaced are African-American voters who have encountered difficulty returning to their residences in Orleans Parish. Thus, this purge has a clear and pronounced effect on minority voting strength," said Theodore Shaw, LDF Director-Counsel and President. "Until they are able to rebuild and return to their homes, our lawsuit will help ensure that eligible voters retain the right to participate in the political process."

In June, the state identified more than 55,000 voters as persons potentially registered in more than one state. Interestingly, four of the five states that Louisiana relies upon to identify alleged dual-registrants are all areas where many displaced voters remain including Texas, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida.

The state mailed a 30 day notice to these voters requiring that they submit a cancellation notice of any out-of-state voter registration to their parish Registrar of Voters by mail or fax. In July, many of these voters received a second notice requiring that they appear in person at their respective Louisiana Registrar's Office to provide evidence as to why their voter registration should not be cancelled. Finally, on August 15, 2007, approximately 21,000 voters were permanently purged from the voter rolls.

The purge is being carried out on the eve of an election cycle scheduled to begin in October. Many of the people who have been removed from the rolls will not be able to participate unless their right to vote is restored.

The State has begun implementing this purge program and, in fact, has permanently removed voters from the rolls despite the fact that certain procedures underlying the purge program are either pending for review by the U.S. Department of Justice or have not yet been submitted for review pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. LDF is committed to seeking to restore the registration of eligible voters improperly removed from the rolls.

NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. 99 Hudson St., Ste. 1600, New York, NY 212.965.2200/tel

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