16 December 2005

Governor Violates Election Law In Canceling Orleans Vote…Words Resemble Dictators of Old

if the louisiana legislature was worth a plug nickel they would call themselves into session and impeach blanco. the governor has sworn to uphold and to preserve the constitution. all citizens in louisiana and in the usa as a whole are guaranteed the right to vote. the only exception we can think of is someone who has been convicted of a felony forfeits his right to vote. sec'y of state al ater has alluded to a late september 2006 date for the nola elections - but thats not what the governors executive order says now is it. we did some googling and found executive order no kbb 2005 - 77 in this executive order issued by governor blanco she postponed by only 28 days the primary elections in allen,beauregard, calcasieu, jefferson davis and vermillion parishes from their original date of october 15th 2005 until november 12th 2005. she moved the general election again by 28 days from november 12 2005 until december 10th 2005.

you see our point? she set a new date. the governor cannot postopone an election indefinetly and in doing so she has committed an impeachable offense and should be indeed impeached. al ater should be removed from his office as well.
now read this article by christopher tidmore:

By Christopher Tidmore

Governor Kathleen Blanco issued Executive Order KBB-2005-96 one week ago, delaying the elections in New Orleans indefinitely.

In a move curious to students of political history, the Governor’s choice of words so closely resemble the myriad of reasons that Latin American Dictators have rendered over the decades for canceling elections in their countries, that the parallels seem uncanny.

The Governor noted that she was driven to the decision “in order to minimize to whatever degree possible a person’s exposure to danger during declared states of emergency.” That sentence sounds strangely close to Getulio Vargas’ defense for postponing the 1937 Brazilian Presidential elections. His crisis, and his subsequent term in office, lasted until 1954, ending only the ultimate change in political environment--a bullet entering his brain.

Augusto Pinochet likewise said that recent, unsettling events created too many administrative barriers to execute a successful, free election. The Chilean General’s state of emergency also postponed a vote indefinitely--preventing a free presidential vote for over a decade.

In August 1980, Daniel Ortega, like Blanco, pledged “to protect the integrity of the electoral process,” canceling Nicaragua ’s scheduled vote. His democratic probity was demonstrated so well that Central American nation was treated to a decade of the Sandinistas’ Dictatorial rule.

While no critic of the Governor believes her a tyrant in the making, a former Democratic Secretary of State, the current Chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, and state’s leading Independent Good Government advocate all contend that Blanco, in her words and orders, blatantly ignored state election law in a fashion that far exceeds her authority as the elected head of state government. Either deliberately or accidentally, and there is debate over Blanco’s motives, all agree that her actions display a “frightening disregard for constitutional protections,” as attorney Justin Zitler put it--and have no place in American Democracy.

The Governor justified her decision to postpone the vote, worrying that the logistics were not in place to hold an election in Orleans Parish for months to come. Roger Villere, Chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party countered though, “If we can hold an election in Afghanistan or Iraq , with people risking their lives to vote, why can’t we have a Mayor’s race in New Orleans ?”

The GOP Chairman, who in a spirit of bipartisanship had little critiqued the Governor in recent weeks, radically changed course on Tuesday. He called for Blanco’s immediate resignation. “Governor Blanco’s order to indefinitely suspend elections in Orleans Parish appears to be an abuse of power that makes her unfit to continue to serve as Governor of Louisiana …The anger in this state is at a boiling point. If the Governor wants to avoid impeachment or recall, she must immediately change her ways and begin performing the most basic functions for which she was elected.”

“Because of the tragedy of Katrina and my hesitancy to distract Governor Blanco from her duties,” Villere continued, “I was silent for a long time after the hurricane hit the state. But I am putting the Governor on notice that she has now crossed the line. We have tolerated her gross malfeasance in office, but her Executive Order to take away the right to vote from American citizens is another whole matter. On behalf of the citizens whose rights are being violated, I demand that the Governor hold these elections in a timely manner or face the most severe political consequences from the voters of this state and their elected representatives.”

The Republican Chairman pointed out to The Louisiana Weekly in an interview Tuesday that the Governor did not hesitate to call an election in St. Bernard Parish for April, but refused to do so in Orleans, despite the counsel of those that said that a two month delay is the maximum extra time the City needs, or legally has, to prepare for a Mayor’s race.

In theory, an April 1st primary and April 29th runoff is the last chance that one could hold an election under the City’s Home Rule Charter. The document requires that the new Mayor and Council take office on May 1st.

Blanco explained that the postponement came after acting Secretary of State Al Ater advised that logistically an election could not occur in Orleans . However, good government advocate C.B. Forgotston pointed out to The Louisiana Weekly, “This is the Al Ater that wants to become the next Chairman of the [State] Democratic Party…There could be a political motive here.”

Ater has recommended a September vote for Parishwide officials in New Orleans . His official reasoning cites the flooded voting machines, lack of citywide power grid, and disappearance of poll commissioners. Only by waiting until the statewide elections in September, reasoned Ater, could these problems be avoided.

Forgotston gave a more basic reason. “They’re worried their voters might be gone for good.”

With African-Americans slow to return to the Crescent City , a general perception exists that a February primary and runoff would favor wealthier white residents, whose homes in Uptown, the French Quarter, and Fabourg Marigny generally avoided the floodwaters. Some claim that the fear is so acute that a Republican like Peggy Wilson could sweep into the Mayor’s office, that any delay to encourage black voters would improve the situation.

Critics of the Governor, like Forgotston, point out that St. Bernard was one of the few parishes to take greater damage than Orleans , yet elections proceed there in April. Allies of the Governor respond that the special election vote will only take place in a few precincts, not throughout the parish, as in Orleans . They also add that the Governor has not indicated a specific date for a New Orleans vote. Blanco has, however, said she agrees with Ater’s general interpretations, leading most to agree that the Governor is holding out for a September poll.

While some ascribe political motives, others give a simpler reason as to why Blanco and Ater delayed the vote, perhaps for many months—laziness. Jim Brown, Louisiana ’s former Democratic Secretary of State, told the Weekly, “There is a fear on the part of some bureaucrats that it would be too much work…to put on a race in February…They think its just too hard.”

“When you look at the pros and cons of delaying this election,” the former Sec. State continued, “Well obviously the pros are that it is going to be a lot easier for elections officials. In a couple of months because you will have some more polling locations and maybe they can get the machines ready. They won’t have to work so much overtime, and there won’t be the logistics of getting people to the polls. So, we could do an election, but its going to be a lot more difficult. But…symbolically, it would be a huge mistake not to do it. What are the pluses of her delaying the election?…Unless it goes to the motives of political opportunism to allow more Democrats to get back into the city, and I would hate to think that would be a motive.”

Brown ultimately concludes that Blanco’s motives are not political—just logistical. “The Governor has just been badly advised…The public officials just made a bureaucratic decision. They don’t realize the backlash that is going to happen...Some public officials just want to take the easy way out…If you aggressively attack this problem, these elections could go on…The election code says that if there is damage or some problems in certain precincts, you can consolidate precincts. What that means is that we can go out in an area of the Ninth Ward, find a big warehouse or great big gymnasium, and perhaps put fifteen or twenty precincts in that one location, so people know that they can come to one location if their precinct has been destroyed.”

“We can get in touch with voters, and I know that that is going to be difficult, but if we can absentee vote with our soldiers in Iraq , we can certainly absentee vote with voters in Houston and Dallas.”

Lastly, the man who oversaw Louisiana Elections for eight years reasons that Blanco could have asked other parishes to lend Orleans their voting machines and resources. “There aren’t any other statewide elections dates on February 4th. Therefore, trucks can haul voting machines…Other parishes would be happy to help.”

Volunteer poll commissioners could be recruited from across the state, he reasons, and if necessary, generators could provide the electronic voting machines with power.

The observation ranks far from conjecture. The Louisiana Weekly has learned that Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court John Gegenheimer has volunteered to donate his undamaged voting machines and use his parish resources to aid New Orleans , as have several members of the Louisiana Clerk of Court association. Jefferson , whose post-Katrina population equals Orleans ’ pre-Katrina levels, could easily ship parish resources over the invisible line that separates it from Orleans , so Gegenheimer reportedly offers.

While Brown thinks Blanco’s motives might be honestly misguided, the former Secretary of State has no doubt that the Governor lacked the legal justification for indefinitely delaying the Orleans elections. “The law is very clear. There’s not a lot of leeway here in the law, and I know something about the election code, because I just happened to have written it. In 1984, when I was Secretary of State, my office sat down with people like former Secretary of State Wade Martin and key legislators like Peppi Bruneau. We put together this whole new election code, and I went over it line by line. I remember some lengthy discussions about what would be the circumstances where you would ever call off an election.”

“There are two reasons and two reasons only. The first reason is that there is threat of harm or danger to those voting. That someone voting would be in harm or danger, just like those poor folks in Iraq who get shot at and they still vote. Obviously if Katrina was imminently about to hit or just a few days after, that would certainly be a reason maybe to call off the election then. But, only then.”

“Number two, if the whole integrity of the elections process is in jeopardy or in some way just could not function properly, that’s the second reason. Those are the only two reasons that the election code allows. Not because it would be inconvenient. There is nothing in the election code about voters who are out of state who can’t make it back, and maybe disenfranchised. None of us want that, but the election code does not call for postponement in those instances.”

Brown plans to make these statements in court, testifying in the case filed by New Orleans attorney Rob Couhig, calling for the New Orleans elections to be held in April.

The press has labeled Couhig’s case as a GOP effort. While Couhig did run for Congress in the First District as a Republican and is well known in local and national GOP circles, what the media has ignored is how bipartisan the affiliations of his codefendants are. Several Democrats have joined in a suit against Louisiana ’s Democratic governor.

Deborah Langhoff is a long-time Democratic Party activist. Pres Kabacoff, the Chairman of Historic Restoration Inc. describes himself as a yellow dog Democrat who supported Gore, Blanco, and both the Landrieus. And, Tony Gelderman is well-known as one of the major fundraisers in the local Democratic Party. He was a key backer of Senator Mary Landrieu’s first race for office, and co-headed her opposition team when Woody Jenkins challenged the results of the contested election.

Couhig’s case is filed in State District Court, contending the Governor’s Executive Order violated the City’s Home Rule Charter and the State Elections Code. Less reported by the media is that an equal effort has been made in Federal Court—on constitutional grounds.

Attorney Justin Zitler believes that the cancellation of the elections is not a White or Black issue. It is not Republican or Democratic in nature, he maintains. It is born of the essential 15th Amendment protection of the right to vote.

“ It is an issue of extreme importance for New Orleanians, wherever they live...What we want to do is comply with the city Charter...There is a four year

term in the city charter...There is plenty of time to qualify by January 13...in time for a general election March 4.”

Zitler’s Brief before the court calls for a primary on March 4th, with a runoff on March 25th. Still, he maintains that the one month election difference in his case and Couhig’s ultimately is minor. The real difference in the arguments of the two cases is federally constitutional in nature. “The dispute seems to be how to hit that May 1st deadline...The Fifteenth Amendment that lets us vote in a timely manner...That is what the Governor’s Executive Order is denying us…We are asking the court to overrule the Governor and have the election.”

In what some of her critics have called “a tactical mistake”, Governor Blanco ended her hearings in Washington on Wednesday with the words, “If we can rebuild Baghdad , we can rebuild New Orleans .” All of her opponents have responded to The Louisiana Weekly with the same sentence, “If we can, then can’t we vote too?…Our boys are dying for Democracy in Iraq ; what about New Orleans ?”

Chairman Villere added, “If elections can be canceled arbitrarily in Orleans , they can be canceled anywhere in Louisiana .”

Christopher Tidmore’s radio show is broadcast on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 5 pm on KKAY 1590 AM in Baton Rouge and WVOG 600 AM in New Orleans . He invites your replies by email at ctidmore@louisianaweekly.com