City Hall Closure Threatens Voting Rights

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The Louisiana Justice Institute (LIJ) says that Mayor Nagin’s recent decision to close City Hall on Fridays due to budget restraints will affect voter turnout in the upcoming Municipal Primary Election, which includes the mayoral and City Council ballots.

“By closing City Hall on Friday and Saturday, the mayor is cutting out 3 of the 7 early voting days at the primary early voting location,” says Jacques Morial, co-director of LIJ, a civil rights advocacy organization. Early voting for the primary election runs from Jan. 23-Jan. 30.

Morial says that this is a substantive change in voting procedure, and that, according to the federal Voting Rights Act, an alteration like this must be pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice. Morial says that his institute has been in contact with DOJ officials regarding this, and that neither the city nor the state has requested the required pre-clearance.

LIJ has filed a letter of complaint with DOJ. Morial says that under the Voting Rights Act, DOJ can order that City Hall be open, so that voting is not disrupted.

“It’s just typical of City Hall,” Morial says. “They just don’t consider the consequences at all of what they do.”

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