I just received the following email from Professor Nate Persily at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. It invokes the issue I raised in my first post to this blog regarding the political complexion of Louisiana in the aftermath of Katrina, and that Sherrilyn Ifill discussed here. Note that prior to Katrina, Louisiana was 32.5% African American and New Orleans was 67.3% African-American.
Professor Persily writes:
"A lawyer working with the Louisiana Governors office has asked me what remedy the state may have against FEMA for their refusal to release the names and new temporary addresses of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. In particular, the Governor wants to make sure they receive absentee ballots for the February elections. FEMA has cited privacy concerns to justify their refusal to release the names and addresses. For some reason, it also appears that FEMA is unwilling to mail or forward the absentee ballot request forms or ballots itself (thereby not having to release the names) and the post office does not have forwarding addresses for most evacuees, so the state cannot simply mail the forms to the old addresses and have them forwarded. Assume that a FOIA request will prove unsuccessful and that individual evacuees on their own initiative could request and receive absentee ballots.
However, the question is: Are there other constitutional or federal statutory claims that the state could make to compel the release of such a list?" (emphasis added). A news story on this issue is available here.