Monday, September 12, 2005
By Steven L. Taylor

While there is no doubt that there will be consequences at the ballot box as voters in Louisiana decide whom to hold accountable, or to thank, for the response to the catastrophe in their state. There is also the simply fact that hundreds of thousands of voters are currently displaced, and some may not come back.

The issues are legion, as this Seattle Times story notes:

Legal and political experts said that if enough evacuees choose not to return, the state legislature, which has the authority to redraw congressional districts, could take that step — a move that could realign power in Louisiana. Any redistricting, however, would be subject to Justice Department approval and would undoubtedly face a court fight.

“There could no doubt be party advantage associated with it,” Richard Engstrom, a voting-rights expert at the University of New Orleans, said of the storm. “If you could reduce the amount of representation of the city of New Orleans, certainly in the state legislature, that could create more Republican seats in the suburbs.”

Elliott Stonecipher, an independent political consultant from Shreveport, La., sees the New Orleans area losing Democratic voters and a political network that was of great benefit to Sen. Mary Landrieu and other Democrats.

“On Election Day, there is a well-oiled machine that knows how to turn those votes out from specific neighborhoods and in specific ways,” Stonecipher said.

Landrieu was elected in a 2002 runoff by a 52-48 margin, a difference of just 42,000 votes. New Orleans was the base of her support.

“If that’s compromised, that could be a problem for her,” said John Maginnis, who publishes a political newsletter in Louisiana.

Landrieu is not up for re-election until 2008. Kathleen Blanco, the Democratic governor, who also won by a 52-48 margin, faces re-election in 2007.

Ray Nagin, the Democratic mayor of New Orleans, is up for re-election in February. No one knows if the city could even hold an election by then.

As the Shreveport Times notes, there is also the fact that many voters are displaced within Louisiana itself, raising the question of whether they will all vote absentee or whether some will re-register where they are at at the moment: Storm ravages state’s political landscape

With congressional elections coming up in 2006 and statewide elections — including positions in the state legislature — set for 2007, the major population shift caused by the hurricane could have an enormous impact on Louisiana politics for years to come.

More than 133,000 residents from 13 parishes are living in 293 shelters across Louisiana and nine other states. Almost 60 percent of those evacuees are being housed out of state. And then there’s all the people who left before the storm. In all, authorities estimate more than 1 million people have left southeast Louisiana, at least temporarily.

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4 Responses to “Katrina and Electoral Politics”

  1. Matthew Says:

    This is interesting, and raises all sorts of issues that I can’t see clearly enough at the moment to develop. (Maybe later, at Fruits and Votes).

    But there is an even greater urgency to figuring out how (or if) displaced voters will vote. There is a runoff election for Louisiana Judge, Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, 1st District, Division B. In plain English, that’s Jefferson Parish.

    This election is scheduled for October 15. That is also the date of primary elections for state legislature in advance of the general election on November 12.

  2. Aaron Says:

    Well if the Black people come back to New Orleans, which I suspect they will, I predicte Nagin will be reelected by the largest margin in the history of the city.

    Shoot, after this he’s got a shot at running for president.

    President Ray Nagin, kind of has a nice ring to it doesn’t. Our first black president handed to us on a platter by the GOP, go figure.

  3. Matthew Says:

    By the way, that judicial election (now postponed) was not a runoff. Sorry.

  4. Fruits and Votes Says:

    Fall elections in New Orleans area postponed

    October 15 is the date of primary elections for state offices in Louisiana and a state judicial district election for Jefferson Parish. The elections have been offcially and indefinitely postponed in the New Orleans area.
    (Thanks to Rick Hasen’…

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