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La. Gov Agrees to Postpone Feb. Elections

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5453879,00.html La. Gov Agrees to Postpone Feb. Elections Saturday December 3, 2005 2:16 AM By DOUG SIMPSON
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2005
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      http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5453879,00.html

      La. Gov Agrees to Postpone Feb. Elections

      Saturday December 3, 2005 2:16 AM

      By DOUG SIMPSON

      Associated Press Writer

      BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. Kathleen Blanco agreed
      Friday to postpone New Orleans' Feb. 4 elections for
      mayor and City Council for up to eight months because
      of the damage and dislocation caused by Hurricane
      Katrina.

      Blanco's decision came hours after Louisiana's top
      elections official recommended the delay, saying
      polling places have not been rebuilt and hundreds of
      thousands of voters remain scattered across the
      country.

      Secretary of State Al Ater said he needs to ensure
      that poll workers are in place and polling places and
      absentee voting systems ready for an election he
      called ``the most important in that city's life.''

      ``The new administration, the new council, the new
      people that will be elected will be in charge of
      making decisions affecting billions and billions and
      billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of
      lives,'' Ater said.

      Ater said the election should be held no later than
      Sept. 30.

      The highest profile race is for mayor. Incumbent Ray
      Nagin, who has gotten both criticism and praise for
      his handling of the Katrina disaster, has not formally
      announced whether he will seek re-election but is
      expected to do so.

      Nagin released a statement Friday saying he had hoped
      for February elections because ``voting during our
      regular cycle would further bring a sense of normalcy
      and empowerment to our citizens. However, I respect
      the secretary of state's decision as I am sure it is
      based upon his concern for holding a fair election.''

      Races for City Council and sheriff are also on the
      ballot.

      Officials expect a huge increase in the number of
      absentee voters because so many of the city's 273,000
      registered voters have moved elsewhere.

      Ater laid much of the blame for the delay on the
      Federal Emergency Management Agency, which he said has
      not provided any of the $2 million his office
      requested to repair voting machines damaged in the
      Aug. 29 storm and to upgrade New Orleans' absentee
      voting system.

      Ater also said FEMA took until this week to respond to
      his October request for a list of addresses of
      Louisiana residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina, so
      they can be informed of how to vote from out of state.

      ``Our job would have been a lot easier if FEMA had
      been more forthright and more forthcoming,'' Ater
      said.

      A FEMA spokeswoman did not immediately return a call
      for comment.

      He said holding the elections on Sept. 30 would save
      the state $3 million, because voting is already
      scheduled statewide that day on two constitutional
      amendments.

      The city will need to bring in temporary voting
      buildings and hire dozens of new election workers, and
      will also have to track down voters and elections
      workers scattered around the country, Ater said.

      It is not unusual for hurricanes to cause
      postponements of elections.

      In Florida, Hurricane Wilma forced a two-week delay in
      this year's mayoral election in Miami, pushing it back
      from Nov. 1 to Nov. 15. In Louisiana, the longest
      election postponement after a storm was two months,
      after Hurricane Lili, in 2002.
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