Katrina Voters?

The Los Angeles Times on Sunday ran an interesting story that raises issues that Mike and I have discussed for much of the past week: what does Katrina mean for voting and elections? Consider the following questions:

First, Louisiana is scheduled to hold open primary elections on October 15 and a General Election on November 12. Where will the displaced New Orleans residents vote? Displaced residents who are still within the state of Louisiana should be able to re-register in their new place of residence and vote in these elections, according to state voter registation rules. This could have a dramatic effect on the outcome of elections across the state.

Second, will displaced New Orleans residents who are in Houston, San Antonio, or other places likewise be registered and vote? Most states have simple 30 day residency requirements, making these new voters a targeted population for the next elections.

Third, what does all of this mean for 2006 and the elections in Louisiana? New Orleans was a stronghold for Mary Landreau, and a very large percentage of her voters have gone off in a disapora. What will this mean for politics in the state? And as the previous item suggests, what does this mean for politics in surrounding states as well? As the LA Times reported,

The migration of hundreds of thousands of people from this urban center, many of them low-income and black, could have a dramatic effect on the political makeup of a state delicately balanced between the two major parties. If most of the evacuees choose not to return, Katrina’s political legacy could be that it made Louisiana a more Republican state.

More than half of the New Orleans evacuees initially landed in solidly Republican Texas. Their presence is expected to trigger no immediate political change in the Republican stronghold. But if enough choose to stay, they could accelerate the growing minority influence in the state, where whites recently lost their majority status, said Charlie Cook, an independent political analyst and, as a Shreveport native, a lifelong student of Louisiana politics.

“Other than the Oakies leaving the Dust Bowl, I can’t think of any other time in American history where this many people have just up and moved,” he said. “We’re all starting to wonder what the long-term political consequences will be in terms of demographics and voting trends.”

The hurricane ruined so many people’s lives, and much of their suffering is because of failures of government–failures to act, failures to plan, failures to invest, failures to prepare–that we need to ensure that these people can vote so they can express to the government know exactly how they feel.