[JURIST] Members of a joint Louisiana House-Senate committee Monday approved a plan to set an April date for New Orleans city elections two days before US District Judge Ivan Lemelle was scheduled to hold hearings in a lawsuit [press release] challenging a December executive order [PDF text] of Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco [official website] authorizing an indefinite delay. The plan, drawn up by Louisiana Secretary of State Al Ater, would also distribute absentee ballots to residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] and set up new polling stations that will be easily accessible to voters whose neighborhoods were flooded. In a hearing late last month, Lemelle urged federal and state officials to expedite the elections [JURIST report] so that New Orleans residents will have an adequate opportunity to vote. Before it will take effect, the election plan supported by the committee must be approved by the full state legislature and the US Department of Justice [official website], as part of the review process required under the 1965 Voting Rights Act [DOJ backgrounder] for all electoral changes in states with a history of suppressing minority votes. AP has more. From New Orleans, the Times-Picayune has local coverage.