NEW ORLEANS - On the eve of a major campaign in New Orleans that will determine the city’s leadership for the next four years, members of the Vietnamese-American community in New Orleans East are preparing to celebrate the Lunar Year. With the sound of frequent firecrackers in the background, campaign signs sway in the afternoon breeze. It’s a unique community, with its own unique culture and food, but when it comes to election year issues, it’s like many other neighborhoods.
"For us the issues are very similar to everybody else's issues, I mean we still have a lack of job opportunities out here, a lack of economic development," said Minh Nguyen, executive director of Vayla New Orleans.
Historically, voter turnout from the Vietnamese community in New Orleans East has been relatively low. But in the years following Hurricane Katrina, with the fate of their homes and churches at stake, there's been a bigger push to get more politically involved. Nguyen says his organization and others like it have worked to get more of the Vietnamese community to the polls.
"For the past eight years, we've been registering people to vote, we've been educating them on how to vote," said Nguyen.
Nguyen says they’ve been promoting early voting. So far, in this year’s municipal election, 10,218 people have cast early votes. Compare that to the 17,170 early voters in the previous city election. That 2010 mayoral race saw an overall voter turnout of 32-percent. The registrar of voters says turn out for Saturday's election could be strong, and the improving weather should help.
"I’m thinking it's going to be nice weather people can plan all their activities but one activity they really need to plan is to go out and vote, if they haven't voted early already," Sandra Wilson, the Registrar of Voters in Orleans Parish.
Political analyst Clancy DuBos says turnout will be a critical factor for two candidates in the mayor's race, incumbent mayor Mitch Landrieu and Michael Bagneris, who is considered Landrieu’s main rival.
"The bigger the African-American turn out the better it is for Mike Bagneris, but the flip side is Mitch Landrieu has a pretty significant level of support among African Americans as well, it's not just a question of how many, but it's really a question of who turns out," said DuBos.
Polls open starting at 7 a.m. on Saturday.