Thursday, March 23, 2006

Katrina Survivors: Insult to Injury

Dear Friends,
I signed the following petition and ask that you consider doing so also.  Please don't let the displaced residents of New Orleans be discounted.
Thanks for your consideration
Dear Pamela,

New Orleans municipal elections scheduled for this spring could set new records for minority disenfranchisement. The team that rebuilds New Orleans may be elected without input of the majority of the city's displaced residents -- who are largely African American -- who cannot afford to return to vote.

This would add insult to the injury of those already victimized by Hurricane Katrina.

  • An estimated 45-65% of the nearly 300,000 registered voters from New Orleans still remain displaced outside of the city, and the election is scheduled for April 22. 
  • Of these, 66% aren't even in the state of Louisiana.
  • An overwhelming majority of these displaced voters are poor and African American and will be directly affected by their elected government.

This is a national issue, not just a local one. Allowing an election to proceed that so clearly contradicts the principles of fairness and equality at the heart of our democracy fundamentally undermines the American way.

People For has been working with the NAACP to fight to have these elections postponed until satellite voting centers can be set up in cities outside Louisiana with large numbers of displaced New Orleans voters. But the federal Justice Department has refused to step in, failing to meet its obligations under the Voting Rights Act. Louisiana's Legislature, which comes back into session next week, seems unlikely to take action either.

I am writing to ask you to sign onto a statement calling on Louisiana officials to reconsider. If satellite voting centers could be set up in the U.S. for Iraqis to vote in their recent elections, surely we should do at least as much for Americans displaced in their own country.

Meanwhile, the Election Protection Coalition -- led by PFAW Foundation, the NAACP, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law -- is taking steps to protect the rights of New Orleans voters. The NAACP has already opened 15 Voter Assistance Centers nationwide to tell displaced New Orleanians about their options for voting and help them to cast ballots that will count, and PFAWF has helped train volunteers at those centers. The toll-free Election Protection Hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE) is gearing up, staffed with volunteer lawyers who help displaced New Orleans residents register to vote, request absentee ballots, and determine how and where they can vote, as well as provide other assistance.

People For activists must be on the front lines in this battle to protect voting rights. Take the first step today by signing onto our statement.

Sharon J. Lettman
PFAW Foundation's Election Protection Campaign

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