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Al Ater: Courts may take over election if law unchanged

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There's a danger the federal court will take over New Orleans elections if legislators don't change a law so more people can absentee vote, Secretary of State Al Ater said Thursday.
A federal takeover would be another black eye on the state in the wake of devastating hurricanes, Ater said.
"I could see the headlines across America right now," Ater said. "They'll say it's another thing that Louisiana can't handle on its own."
Under current law, people who register to vote by mail must vote in person at least once before they can cast an absentee ballot.
Ater wants lawmakers to temporarily lift that in-person voting provision, saying to do otherwise would disenfranchise voters who are dislocated through no fault of their own.
Legislators nixed the idea in the first hurricane-special session amid fears of potential voter fraud. Opponents pointed to the thousands of mail registrants who have never voted...

Mayor, sheriff, City Council election details troubling

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With most of its residents living in storm-imposed exile across the country, hundreds of polling places destroyed and a scarcity of election workers, New Orleans is an election planner's nightmare.
But in three months, the ghostly city is scheduled to elect a mayor, sheriff and the entire City Council.
State and local election officials say a massive vote-by-mail program could effectively provide access for all voters, regardless of location, but the hurdles are daunting:
* The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to mail election-information packets on behalf of the state of Louisiana to people who have evacuated New Orleans. But FEMA refuses to pay for election public service announcements in areas with high concentrations of city evacuees.
* Current law requires 2,700 election commissioners to staff the polls, but they're scattered.
* Finding polling places to replace those destroyed by flooding will be difficult in a city where electricity and water service is still spotty. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco will decide whether to hold the election as scheduled, based on recommendations from Secretary of State Al Ater. But New Orleans election chief Kimberly Williamson Butler opposes a postponement...

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