Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Conflicting Reports on Lousiana Population Shifts

I've been monitoring the various reports regarding population shifts in Louisiana in response to Hurricane Katrina, and the only conclusion I can reach is that we can't draw any firm conclusions. Too many citizens have not made up their minds yet about whether they will return to SE Louisiana, not an unexpected situation given the major displacement they've experienced in their lives.

For example, a Gallup poll conducted in the first week of October indicated that 40% of residents who have been assisted by the Red Cross (and 80% of African Americans) say they will not return. Problem is, this poll was conducted among those who applied for Red Cross assistance, thus likely overrepresenting evacuees with the fewest resources and from the poorest areas of the city. My own feeling is that more than half of the evacuees will not return. Many are finding new jobs, are registering their children in new schools, and are finding new housing. Why return to a city where jobs are scarce and the local economy is struggling, where recovery is going slowly, and where many public services will lag for months, if not years to come?

The problem is that state and local election officials need to start making plans now to either accomodate major increases in absentee ballots or purge the rolls of voters who have relocated to new parishes or states. And the question of redrawing the lines in Louisiana in order to account for these major shifts is still open.

Other assorted links:

  1. The Washington Post reports that New Orleans won't be back to 500,000 residents for a long time, and that the VRA requires Louisiana to redraw districts as soon as possible.
  2. Two FindLaw columnists argue that voting rights are in peril, and that Louisiana officials must relax registration requirements and move aggressively to make absentee ballots available.
  3. The Times-Picayune reports that election officials have asked FEMA to provide emergency generators to power voting machines in case electricity has not returned by election day in November.
  4. Doug Chapin's Electionline weekly has an interview with the LA State Elections Director.
  5. (Fairvote has posted a number of interesting proposals to deal with the fluid situation in Louisiana. Most, not surprisingly given Fairvote's mission, suggest varieties of multimember congressional districts and rank order ballot options.)


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