WASHINGTON - March 24 - In less than a month, the city of New Orleans will hold an election in which hundreds of thousands of residents are expected to cast votes, despite the fact that many of them are thousands of miles from home and not informed about the candidates—or even that an election is being held.
NOW stands today on behalf of its half-million contributing members with the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the NAACP, the National Urban League and other civil rights leaders to call for the highest officials in the state and federal governments to ensure fair and accessible elections so that every New Orleanian has a vote and a voice in the political process that will directly impact their lives and their futures.
By pre-clearing the April 22 election, the U.S. Department of Justice disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of already-marginalized men and women, in clear disregard for democratic principles and their fundamental rights. These elections have been tainted before they have even been held. And the attorney general had—and still has—time for a change of mind and a change of heart and can bring justice for those survivors who have, thus far, seen so little.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to counteract the systemic racist barriers, intimidation and discrimination against African-American voters. Yet, today, more than 40 years later, these same barriers still affect residents of New Orleans, and we saw it across the nation during the past two presidential elections. We must all demand an end to the mistreatment of Katrina survivors and stand together as leaders, activists and good neighbors, and refuse to allow the government to ignore them once more.
I call on concerned women and men to join me, NOW's Action Vice President Melody Drnach, Rev. Jesse Jackson and others in the April 1 march to the Crescent City Connection, where Katrina survivors were met with gunfire and were blocked from crossing the bridge to higher ground. We will tell the government to protect the survivors' right to vote, their right to return to New Orleans, their right to assist in the reconstruction of the city and their right to organize. New Orleanians deserve that much and more from the government that has allowed them to suffer for so long.