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Democrats doing whatever it takes to prevent meltdown

If Louisiana Democrats put up such a desultory showing this Saturday as many foresee, it would be hard to blame the efforts of their operatives in Orleans Parish for this as in some cases they have gone the extra(legal) mile to get Democrats into voting booths.

Democrats have fretted that the hurricane disasters of 2005 disproportionately reduced Democrat registration relative to Republicans, and that a lack of statewide candidates attractive to blacks will hurt the party’s chances in these elections. But in Orleans, local candidates and contests may ameliorate at least the concern of lower turnout due to lack of enthusiasm.

Both the 95th and 98th House districts, nominally majority black, became vulnerable to Democrats from storm displacement. Despite the current 95th seat-holder term-limited state Rep. Alex Heaton having switched to the GOP, the 98th probably is more competitive in a partisan sense. Still, the threat of a Republican takeover of both is something that will ensure enthusiastic turnout among Democrats, especially blacks.

Additionally, the unexpected opening up of an at-large New Orleans City Council spot also has got many fired up. When former member black Democrat Oliver Thomas resigned after a guilty plea to influence peddling, there was some concern because this is the so-called “black” seat of the two at-large positions (an informal custom is that a white hold one and a black the other). Democrats have fielded competitive white and black candidates for this seat, but the desire of some to keep this seat “black” also will spur turnout for Democrats that could translate into help for legislative or even statewide candidates.

But perhaps the biggest boost came from the parish Registrar of Voters, Sandra Wilson. Months ago, Secretary of State Jay Dardenne made a special effort to remove voters registered in other states from Louisiana rolls. But the final call was left in the hands of the parish registrars, who went around making extra effort to give people on the list for those to be dropped the chance to demonstrate Louisiana residency.

Parishes around Orleans, with much smaller totals than its 6,857 names, trimmed theirs by about 2 percent. By contrast, Orleans kept less than 2 percent – a situation described in an understated way as “The reduction in New Orleans is startling when compared with how the same type of voter lists were handled by other parishes.” Seems that Wilson enlisted the help of volunteers to go through the list, and a person was not removed from the rolls who could prove their Louisiana residency by providing “information by mail, fax or in person that would offer proof that they were living in New Orleans and intended to remain or else that they had canceled their registrations in other states” – in other words, not a the highest burden of proof.

So will we see a huge cache of absentee ballots swarm into Orleans with many from people who had been on this list? Don’t put it past Democrats who know otherwise their days in power in Louisiana are growing more finite in number as each days passes.

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