March 24, 2006

DOJ Responds to Criticisms of Preclearance of New Orleans Vote

The Department of Justice has sent this letter to Rep. Conyers defending the DOJ's decision to preclear the New Orleans election. (I also received a copy of a letter from the Chair of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, but it is too large a file for me to post.) Eric Holland, spokesman for the DOJ's civil rights division, sends along these thoughts:

    DOJ Section 5 Voting Rights Act Preclearance of New Orleans Elections

    * The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus endorsed the proposed election procedures that the State submitted to the Department of Justice for Section 5 preclearance review.

    * The caucus characterized the State acts in question as "a progressive effort to enfranchise displaced voters through changes in absentee voting by mail, authorization of early voting at satellite offices in various parishes, and authorization for certain displaced voters to be treated like members of the United States [armed] service or persons residing outside the United States for purposes of absentee voting by mail."

    * African American members of the Louisiana House and Senate were unanimous in casting their votes for the election procedures.

    * A federal judge in Louisiana has rejected claims that these elections would violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

    * Voters of New Orleans were represented by highly experienced counsel in the Section 2 lawsuit, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Advancement Project.

    * The Justice Department's preclearance review was limited, as a matter of law, to determining whether voters would be better off with the new satellite voting locations; whether voters would be better off with the eased rules on absentee voting; and whether such voters would be better off with the other provisions enacted by the State to ameliorate voting conditions for displaced individuals.

Posted by Rick Hasen at March 24, 2006 03:01 PM