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Katrina blows municipal elections further into next year

SPECIAL REPORT

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- New Orleans will delay its scheduled February 4 municipal elections because Hurricane Katrina has left election officials unable to perform basic functions, a spokeswoman for the governor said.

No date has been set.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco made the decision Friday after Secretary of State Al Ater recommended elections be postponed, but no later than September 30, spokeswoman Denise Bottcher said.

"The unavailability of polling places, difficulties in locating and training poll commissioners and workers for absentee balloting, and the huge task of recertifying and replacing damaged voting machines all create an emergency situation causing the postponement of the election," Ater said.

Most of the city's population remains scattered throughout the country, and 300 of the 442 polling places in New Orleans are unusable because of damage sustained during the August 29 hurricane that killed 1,086 people in Louisiana.

Bottcher said Ater's request came as no surprise.

"There have been talks for some time about the likelihood of delaying the elections," she said.

Among the offices up for election are mayor, city council posts, coroner, court clerks, sheriffs and assessors.

Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, a Democrat, and former city council member Peggy Wilson, a Republican, are expected to challenge Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin, who has been criticized for his handling of the pre- and post-hurricane operations. (Full story)

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