Friday, March 17, 2006

NOLA election: A demagogue and a wacko battle for attention
Justice OKs elections in New Orleans

...But the decision neither appeased civil rights activists nor addressed the actions of Kimberly Williamson Butler, New Orleans' recently incarcerated chief election official and new mayoral candidate.

Mrs. Butler, the Orleans Parish Clerk of Court, spent three days in jail last week for ignoring a court order before joining the hotly contested field of 23 candidates. This week, she refused to cede her elected post to oversee next month's election.

"I can't kick her out, but I have a small army of people working hand in glove doing what she is supposed to be doing," said Secretary of State Al Ater, the state's top election official who asked Mrs. Butler to step down.

"She will be shadowed and closely watched to make sure this is a legitimate and fair election," he said.

Jesse Jackson's Rainbow-PUSH Coalition and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which asked the Justice Department to review the state's plan to hold primary elections for mayor, City Council and other posts on April 22, will march on the city in protest early next month.

"Two-thirds of the eligible population has been disenfranchised," said Mr. Jackson, who wants satellite polling stations set up in 44 states. "This is more onerous than the poll tax laws of 1965."…

As for Mrs. Butler, Jeff Crouere, who moderated a debate last week in which the election official did not participate, called the candidate's behavior "bizarre, even by New Orleans standards -- which is really saying something."

"Everyone was very disappointed when she didn't show up because they were hoping for a lot of fireworks," Mr. Crouere said. "Her pastor told us God sent her to save New Orleans and that she's the sanest person ever. I think she's the craziest person ever."

The state Supreme Court fined Mrs. Butler $500 and gave her a 72-hour sentence for disappearing four days after refusing court orders to file Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) paperwork needed to repair the city's hurricane damaged evidence facility.

After serving her sentence last week, Mrs. Butler declared herself a civil rights hero and mayoral candidate.

"I served my time. I can rank myself among many heroes: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Nelson Mandela," she told the New Orleans Times-Picayune after her release March 9...

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