Subject: Killing the Black Vote
Dear ColorOfChange.org member,
Thousands of displaced, mostly Black, Katrina survivors are at risk of being disenfranchised.
During Iraq's recent election, the U.S. government provided polling places in U.S. cities with large numbers of Iraqi-Americans.
Why won't it do the same for New Orleanians?
Join us to demand satellite voting for New Orleans' mayoral election:
The voting rights of thousands of Black New Orleanians are about to be trampled. On April 22nd, New Orleans will hold its first mayoral election since the storm. For most who evacuated, predominantly Black and poor, voting will be so difficult and impractical that it makes you wonder if election officials want them to vote at all.
Satellite voting, which would provide out-of-state polling places for
evacuees, is the one viable solution that would provide the largest
number of evacuees a reasonable opportunity to vote. But politicians
controlling the elections, including Gov. Blanco, have refused to
provide it. Everyone, including the Governor, knows that without
additional measures, the Black vote will be suppressed and the ability
for Black New Orleanians to claim their future will be compromised.
Please join us in calling on Governor Blanco to protect the voting
rights of Katrina survivors by providing satellite voting.
With thousands of Black folks gone from New Orleans, some candidates see an opportunity for political gain and want a permanent shift in the demographics of the city. Keeping it hard for Black New Orleanians to vote is another step towards pushing them out and gentrifying the city.
During the Iraqi elections, our government set up polling places in
the United States so that Iraqis here could participate in the
elections in their country. It's done the same for Mexicans,
Armenians, and others now living in America. Despite requests
from the NAACP and other organizations, officials have refused to do
the same for Americans displaced by Katrina, living right here in
Houston, Atlanta, Birmingham, and other cities.
The issue of voting rights for Katrina survivors in Louisiana has been heated. A month ago, Black members of the state assembly walked out after other members defeated satellite voting within the state. Gov. Blanco originally opposed any form of satellite voting. But after the walkout--and the activism of groups like KatrinaAction.org--she changed course. Blanco clearly recognizes the issue--here's what she said about satellite voting within Louisiana:
"These are unusual times that demand unique solutions," Blanco said.
"Without this bill, the election may lose some of its legitimacy. Without
this bill, tens of thousands of citizens could easily be disenfranchised
through no fault of their own," Blanco said. "Without this bill, we
deny a basic right to some of our citizens." 
But Governor Blanco has still failed to support satellite voting outside Louisiana.
Louisiana's Secretary of State Al Ater says the election doesn't violate anyone's rights because people outside of Louisiana can still vote by absentee ballot. But the reality is that it's much more complicated and difficult to vote by absentee ballot than to vote in person, especially for someone who's been displaced by Katrina.
To vote absentee, you'd have to apply for a ballot by mail, wait for the ballot to come back, then send the ballot back again by mail. Many Katrina survivors have been forced to move several times since the storm, which makes it impossible to guarantee that election materials will get to them. In addition, there are delays in mail service coming to and from New Orleans. To make matters worse, the State already sent information about absentee voting which was inaccurate, incomplete, and confusing. Experts agree that without satellite voting, participation will be down.
To call the absentee voting process "fair and equal" is dishonest, and to give displaced New Orleanians--most of whom are Black--no other option amounts to a massive attack on their voting rights and their ability to participate in shaping the future of their city. With so much at stake, it's essential to ensure that all New Orleanians have equal access to voting rights, which means setting up satellite polling places in other states.
Please join us in demanding satellite voting for displaced New Orleanians:
Thank You and Peace,
-- James, Van, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
March 20th, 2006
1. Evacuees can vote absentee or in La., The Times-Picayune, 2-25-06
2. Effort to let N.O. evacuees vote revived, The Advocate, 2-15-06
3. Statement from US Postal Service regarding mail delays
4. Voter rights groups criticize election mailings, The Times-Picayune, 3-10-06