Federal court finds election law violations in Louisiana

By Marsha Shuler

Capitol news bureau

A federal district judge found that Louisiana violated federal election law by failing to make voter registration opportunities widely available at public assistance offices run by two state agencies.

The ruling Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Jane Triche Milazzo, of New Orleans, came in a lawsuit filed in early 2011 by Luther Scott and the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP over state compliance with the National Voter Registration Act, called NVRA. Scott had not been given an opportunity to register to vote in several encounters with public assistance agencies.

“Prior to April 2011, the defendants were in violation of the NVRA mandates. Since the filing of this lawsuit, however, the defendants have made substantial progress in complying with the NVRA,” Milazzo wrote.

Milazzo gave Secretary of State Tom Schedler, state Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein and state Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Suzy Sonnier to certify compliance to the court by March 15.

Milazzo said she would retain jurisdiction over the issue for the next year.

“Yesterday’s ruling means that Louisiana will finally be required to comply with federal law, and that the state must help our most vulnerable fellow citizens register to vote,” said Dale Ho, assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“It’s a great day in Louisiana for voting rights,” said Ernest Johnson, of Baton Rouge and national board member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Schedler said Louisiana is “doing all the right things.” He noted