Will Evacuees Return to Louisiana to Vote? Politicians' Agenda in at Least Two States Hang in the Balance
Jones, Joyce, Black Enterprise
Will the majority of those relocated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita decide to make their temporary homes permanent? "That's the $64 million question," says Ron Walters, a University of Maryland political scientist. A lot of politicians' futures are riding on the answer. Franklin Jones, who chairs the political science department at Texas Southern University, says black evacuees could potentially upset the balance of power in some state legislatures and congressional districts in the Gulf region.
Although scattered throughout the nation, the majority of displaced blacks have relocated to other parts of Louisiana (primarily Baton Rouge), Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama. Louisiana has seen a whopping 523,149 evacuees apply for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, while 383,840, 156,895, and 109,840 have applied for aid in Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama, respectively. According to Southern University professor Frank Ransburg, employment and education will likely be the deciding factors when people consider whether to return home.
Ransburg says the most significant impact would be in states where the population is primarily Mack and white, unlike Texas. "Texas has three groups of people: whites, blacks, and Hispanics. In such a triumvirate, African Americans alone will not have much of an impact unless they unite with Hispanics to [form] a major force in Texas politics, just as in Louisiana, where Cajuns and African Americans generally vote the same way," he says.
Elected officials who won by narrow margins in the affected states, such as Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Sen. Mary Landrieu, could see their political fates go either way, says Jones.
Louisiana's state officials are still sorting out many election details, such as whether New Orleans' upcoming mayoral election will be postponed. They are also considering changes to election laws to address the large number of displaced voters, and the possibility of allowing absentee ballots. …