NAACP Challenges Louisiana Voter Purge

The Associated Press
Friday, August 31, 2007; 10:16 AM

NEW ORLEANS -- The NAACP filed a civil rights lawsuit challenging a purge of Louisiana voters believed to have registered in other states following Hurricane Katrina.

In the federal court action, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People contends that the purge has already begun without the necessary pre-approval of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Because of its history of racial discrimination before the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, voting changes in Louisiana and other Southern states must be approved by federal officials.

On June 15, Secretary of State Jay Dardenne announced that his agency was mailing notices to 53,554 voters saying they must give up their registration in other states or risk losing the right to vote in Louisiana. Dardenne said the state had compared Louisiana voter roles with those of other states and identified people with identical names and dates of birth.

Voters were given one month to prove they had canceled their out-of-state registrations. After that, they had to appear in person at their voter registrar's office with documentation that their non-Louisiana registration had been canceled.

On Aug. 17, election officials said more than 21,192 people had been dropped _ the majority from areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. Of those, 6,932 were from Orleans Parish, which was majority black before the storm.

In its lawsuit, filed Thursday, the NAACP said that "the voting rights of many more may be threatened unless this court enjoins this practice."

The named plaintiffs in the suit include Rosa Segue, a woman described as a lifelong Orleans Parish resident who lost her home to Katrina and has relocated to Katy, Texas and a person identified only as John Doe-Jane Doe displaced from Louisiana who intends to return.

The suit says the second plaintiff has not voted in another state, does not intend to and never received any warning about the pending removal from Louisiana voting rolls.

Merietta Norton, general counsel for the secretary of state, said her office had not received a copy of the lawsuit Thursday and she could not comment.

Since the suit involves a voting rights case, the NAACP is requesting, as provided by federal law, that the case be heard by a three-judge panel of federal district judges.

© 2007 The Associated Press