Displaced Iraqis Have Better Voting Opportunities Than Displaced Katrina Victims

The upcoming New Orleans mayoral primary faces logistical problems because “tens of thousands of evacuees are still scattered across the country and eligible to cast ballots in the April 22 election, either by mail or at satellite polling places around the state.”

An estimated 75 percent of the New Orleans Parish’s displaced voters are African-American, and serious questions remain about how African-American voters will be adequately represented in the primary.

The NAACP estimates that “66 percent of those displaced are outside of Louisiana,” but a federal judge last month refused to “order Louisiana officials to provide out-of-state satellite polling places for displaced voters” in the primary. Instead, over 700,000 former city residents will receive “information packets” about how to vote by absentee ballot. (Worse, the address the city has on file may be unreliable.)

In response, local leaders have wondered why Iraqis living in the U.S. were given this right, yet African-Americans are not. “[Louisiana] had all kinds of excuses why that couldn’t happen,” New Orleans City Council President Oliver M. Thomas Jr. said. “But the Iraqi people voted [at satellite offices]. Why can’t we do that for all of our voters?