Sunday, September 19, 2004Considering its conservative Bible-belt roots, it's not a major surprise that Louisiana passed a state constitutional amendment yesterday banning same-sex marriages, civil unions and the recognition of such unions made elsewhere. However, there is something seriously fishy about the circumstances of yesterday's vote: many precincts throughout the state, especially in New Orleans - the part of the state with the largest number of LGBT and liberal voters - had no voting booths available until late in the afternoon.
365Gay.com offers a disturbing account of the mass confusion during Saturday's vote, due in part to the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan and resulting logistics lapses:
There was mass confusion throughout Louisiana today as voters went to the polls to decide whether to put a ban on gay marriage into the state constitution. In more than a third of the state's precincts there were no voting machines. In other areas people displaced by hurricane Ivan did not know where they were supposed to vote. And, elections officials in local areas were confused about what to tell people.From the Associated Press:
More than 35 precincts reported they did not have machines when the polls opened. Drivers hired to deliver the machines apparently failed to show up for work. State workers, many who had never driven a truck before, were called in to replace the truckers, but even then several got lost trying to find out where the polling stations were located. Dozens of precincts, mainly in low lying areas that remain underwater, were moved, but no one told the drivers where they had been relocated.
...[T]here [are] many possible grounds for challenging the results in state and federal court. One appeared Saturday, when voting machines were delivered late to some New Orleans precincts, keeping some from casting ballots for hours.It doesn't take a great leap to speculate that many New Orleans voters who opposed the amendment were unable to cast their ballots. Considering this, wouldn't there be ample justification to declare Saturday's voting results null and void, and hold another amendment vote when conditions are more organized? It's ridiculous to claim the results of this fiasco legitimately represents the will of all Louisianans. If a new vote were held, this discriminatory amendment might still pass, but at least there might be some semblance of electoral fairness.
State director of elections Frances Sims said at least 59 precincts did not have voting machines when polls opened because officials with New Orleans' clerk of court's office failed to meet drivers who tried to deliver the machines earlier that morning. The problem was solved by midday.
Julius Green, 58, said he went to his polling place in New Orleans' Bywater neighborhood about 10 a.m. and found no voting machines - just a crowd. "This is ridiculous," Green said. "It makes people feel that their vote don't count."
UPDATE: Alas, A Blog has some very interesting info in the comment section on this developing story - from someone who was there in New Orleans.