Center for American Progress

: Voting after Katrina: Ensuring Meaningful Participation
Past Event

Voting after Katrina: Ensuring Meaningful Participation

12:00 AM - 11:59 PM EST

Voting after Katrina: Ensuring Meaningful Participation


Representative Artur Davis (D-AL)
Al Ater, Louisiana Secretary of State
Debo P. Adegbile, Associate Director of Litigation, NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Ronald Wilson Esq., New Orleans Attorney

Moderated by:

William Yeomans, Director of Programs, American Constitution Society

Estimates suggest that over 1 million people have been displaced from southern Louisiana alone by Hurricane Katrina. Some have left the state while others have relocated elsewhere in Louisiana. Some may never return, while others retain a desire to return, but may not be able to do so for years. These seismic population shifts and the wide dispersal of former residents pose enormous challenges to officials faced with the need to ensure that voters have a fair and meaningful opportunity to elect their leaders. The mechanics of identifying eligible voters, reaching out to them and crafting meaningful ways for them to vote are daunting. The crucial task of complying with the Voting Rights Act also shapes this effort, as does the need to satisfy the one person-one vote guarantee of the Constitution.

Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL), who has sponsored legislation to address the voting rights of people displaced by Katrina, and a panel of experts including Louisiana Secretary of State Al Ater, will discuss these problems. They will explore the longer term implications of these population shifts, including the effect on the electoral power of minority voters, the effect of redrawing election districts and the ways in which these changes may affect electoral outcomes.

Please join the Center for American Progress and the American Constitution Society for this important discussion about ensuring the vote for those displaced by Katrina.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005
Program: 12:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Lunch will be served beginning at 12:00 PM.
Admission is free.

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•  Transcripts


Representative Artur Davis (D-AL) arrived in Congress in January 2003 to represent Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, and since then has been recognized by publications such as Roll Call and The National Journal as one of the future leaders to watch in Washington. Congressman Davis has earned a reputation as a legislator with an appreciation for bipartisanship. His hard work has paid high dividends as he led the passage of five pieces of legislation during his first term in Congress on a range of issues from down payment assistance for first time homebuyers to recognition of the victims and heroes of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham. Because of his demonstrated leadership potential, Congressman Davis was appointed by Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic Whip, as a member of the Senior Whip Team for the Democratic Caucus during the 109th Congress. He is also Co-Chair of the centrist House New Democrat Coalition and Southern Regional Co-Chair for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. A product of Montgomery public schools, Congressman Davis excelled in academics including graduating Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University in 1990 and Cum Laude from Harvard Law School in 1993. While in law school, Davis distinguished himself as Best Oralist during the prestigious Moot Court competition – only the second African American to reach this achievement. Congressman Davis’ excellent academic career gave birth to a flourishing professional life as a successful attorney and advocate for justice. Upon graduation from law school, Congressman Davis received a clerkship with Judge Myron F. Thompson, one of the first African-American judges appointed to the federal bench in Alabama. From 1994 to 1998, Congressman Davis established a 90 percent conviction rate as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama fighting white-collar criminals and the scourge of drugs and violence on our streets and in our neighborhoods. From 1998 until his election to Congress, Congressman Davis fought as a civil rights attorney for the rights of those unjustly treated in the workplace. Congressman Davis’ challenge is representing a district in two paradoxical worlds containing some of the highest pockets of prosperity in the Southeast side-by-side with some of the poorest regions in America. Five of the 12 counties in the 7th Congressional District are identified in the list of 100 poorest counties in America as ranked by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Al Ater, a native of Louisiana, first became involved with Louisiana politics in 1984 with his successful election to the Louisiana House of Representatives. During his tenure in the State House, Ater served on the House & Governmental Affairs, Legislative Services, House Ways and Means and Agriculture Committees. Four years after his initial run, Ater ran unopposed and was re-elected to his House of Representatives seat where he served until 1992 after choosing not to run again. In 2001, Ater joined the Department of State as First Assistant to Secretary of State Fox McKeithen. In addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Secretary of State’s Office, Ater spearheaded the merger of the Department of Elections with the Department of State. Ater then joined the Department of Insurance in July 2004 as Chief Deputy Commissioner. In March 2005, Ater returned to the Department of State as First Assistant Secretary of State. He became Secretary of State in July of 2005. His duties include overseeing the operations of the Department of Elections and Commercial Division, as well as fourteen state museums and the preservation of Louisiana’s historical data. In addition, he is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Louisiana School Employees’ Retirement System; Louisiana Tourist Development Commission; Louisiana Workmen’s Compensation, Second Injury Board; Governors Advisory Council on Disability Affairs; State Board of Election Supervisors; State Bond Commission; International Association of Corporate Administrators; International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers; and the National Association of Secretaries of State.

Debo P. Adegbile is the Associate Director of Litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. (“LDF”) where he works with the Director of Litigation to oversee the organization’s legal program while remaining actively engaged in voting rights litigation and advocacy. Previously, Mr. Adegbile was an Assistant Counsel at LDF where he litigated voting rights cases on behalf of African Americans and other under-served communities. Mr. Adegbile’s voting rights experience with LDF encompasses constitutional cases and actions arising under the Voting Rights Act and other federal or state statutes. He was part of the team of civil rights attorneys representing African-American voters in NAACP v. Harris — the class action suit that arose out of the 2000 Presidential election. In 2003, he served as lead counsel for African-American interveners in Louisiana House of Representatives v. Ashcroft, et al. — the §5 Voting Rights Act case before a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Mr. Adegbile served as a coordinator of the national, nonpartisan Election Protection Program (“EPP”) during the 2004 elections. Mr. Adegbile received a J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1994, and a B.A. in Government from Connecticut College in 1991, which awarded him the Anna Lord Strauss Medal, presented at graduation to the senior who has performed exemplary college and community service.

Ronald Wilson is a New Orleans attorney who has litigated widely in the areas of civil rights and public interest. Mr. Wilson is a cooperating attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He is Vice-President of the Legal Aid Bureau. He has lectured for symposiums and seminars at universities for the Bar Association in the United States and abroad. Mr. Wilson is a member of the Board at the University of New Orleans Foundation. Currently Mr. Wilson is involved in the activities surrounding the protection of voting rights in New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

William Yeomans serves as Director of Programs at the American Constitution Society. He joined ACS in April 2005 after more than 26 years of service in the Department of Justice. He spent 24 of those years in the Civil Rights Division, where he held various litigation, policy development and leadership roles. He began in the Civil Rights Division as a trial attorney, briefing and arguing civil rights cases in most of the Federal Courts of Appeals and briefing numerous Supreme Court cases. He then moved into a succession of leadership positions, serving as Acting Assistant Attorney General, Chief of Staff, Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General. During this period, he supervised litigation, worked extensively with Congress and the White House and played a key role in formulating policy regarding civil rights issues, including affirmative action, hate crimes, police misconduct, school desegregation, reproductive rights and discrimination in employment, housing and voting. Bill has degrees from Harvard Law School (LL.M) and Boston University School of Law and is currently an adjunct professor of law at the Washington College of Law, American University.