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...