Monday, February 1, 2010

Justice Department to Monitor Upcoming Election

In response to a complaint filed to the United States Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s office is sending at least four representatives, including two attorneys, to monitor Saturday’s Municipal Primary Election. Attorneys Earnest McFarland and Steven Wright, and two other department personnel, will travel throughout Orleans Parish to monitor elections and to respond to complaints from voters.

After receiving numerous complaints from early voters attempting to exercise their right to vote for only one candidate in the election for Council-At-Large last week, the Louisiana Justice Institute (LJI) filed a Voting Rights Act complaint with the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. Voters complained that when they attempted to exercise their constitutionally protected right to vote for only one candidate, the voting machine showed the voters’ single selection in red with the message “NO SELECTION MADE” below the voters’ choice of a single candidate. Voters also reported that poll commissioners had suggested to them that their votes would not count unless two selections were made by the voter in the at-large election. Furthermore, the message on the screen could lead a reasonable person to believe that unless they cast two votes in the at large council election, none of their votes in the other races might be recorded or counted.

Tracie Washington, Managing Director of LJI, stated, “Louisiana Justice Institute is pleased that the United States Department of Justice has responded so quickly to citizens’ complaints. We understand voters were confused about Council-at-Large ballots. Further, we understand there were complaints that machines were shutting down as ballots were cast.”

The right of a voter to choose only one candidate in multi-candidate election (also known as “single shot” or “casting a bullet ballot” is specifically protected by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

As we embark upon a new era of New Orleans’ recovery process, this is one of the most important elections in the history of this great city. New Orleans area voters must be assured this election is legitimate, and that all of the voting procedures and regulations are in strict compliance with the Voting Rights Act and other applicable laws.

Any complaints concerning the inability to cast a vote for a single Council-at-Large or other irregularities in voting, please contact Earnest McFarland ( or Steven Wright ( of the Department of Justice, or fax complaints to the Department of Justice at (202)307-3961. In addition, you are welcomed to contact the Louisiana Justice Institute at (504)872-9134 with any complaints or questions.

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