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Federal lawsuit filed over New Orleans election plans

[JURIST] The Advancement Project [advocacy website], a Washington, DC-based advocacy group, has filed a federal lawsuit challenging election plans for New Orleans [JURIST report], alleging that the plan puts too much emphasis on absentee voting and would keep blacks out of office. According to the lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release], Louisiana's emergency election plan following Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] will disenfranchise or severely burden the franchise of thousands of displaced voters, the vast majority of whom are African-American, and therefore violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act [DOJ backgrounder].

Late last month, the Louisiana legislature approved a plan to hold April elections in New Orleans city races and to distribute absentee ballots to residents still displaced by Katrina. The Advancement Project is seeking a federal court order directing Louisiana election officials to make several modifications to the plan, including setting up satellite polling places, mailing unsolicited absentee ballots to displaced persons with known addresses, and giving public notice of the elections in all states where displaced persons reside. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [advocacy website] has also indicated that it might file a court challenge against the election plans unless displaced voters are given greater consideration. AP has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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