In the 2002 election, African Americans cast 62 percent of about 135,000 votes. On Saturday, African Americans cast 52 percent of about 108,000 votes, Rigamer's figures showed. The fact that the number of voters this time was 80 percent of the voters from the last mayoral election -- even though the city is half-empty -- was greeted as good news by some.Going on those numbers, in the 2002 election (I am assuming they are talking about the primary), 83,700 votes were cast by African Americans. In 2006, 56,160 votes were cast by African Americans – 27,540 less than the previous mayoral primary.
Flipping the percentages, what that also says is the number of non-African American voters didn’t change much at all:
2002 – 51,300 non-African American voters
2006 – 51,840 non-African American voters
In fact, those numbers mean there were more non-African American voters this time around, even with less than half of the pre-Katrina population in the city.
Either these numbers reflect how voting was harder for still displaced residents, of which the large majority is African American, or they represent the changing demographics of a post-Katrina New Orleans – less overall population, with fewer African Americans and about the same number of whites and others.
If there is the same turnout for the runoff, it would strongly suggest the latter. Having already had a run-through with the primary and given another month to decide and get his or her vote in (EDIT: Early voting, May 8 - 13; absentee ballots, May 8 - 13, May 19 for some), the process becomes less of an obstacle for the displaced resident. Therefore, not voting could be an indication that displaced residents are not interested in the elections in New Orleans because they do not plan on coming back.
I hope the African American turnout for the runoff, whether in person or by absentee, is higher. I know Nagin does, too. He wants to win. I just want people to come home.