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New Orleans Residents Vote for Mayor

The polls have opened in the hurricane-battered southern U.S. city of New Orleans, where voters will choose a new mayor.

Incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu are facing off. They were the two top vote-getters in the city's April primary.

That election was the first since Hurricane Katrina devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast last August, flooding most of New Orleans. An estimated six out of 10 people who lived in New Orleans before the hurricane now live elsewhere.

Regional voting stations have been set up across Louisiana for evacuees, while activist organizations and churches are providing free buses to polling sites.

Critics of the election process say the lack of out-of-state polling centers skews the vote because most of the evacuated residents are black.

Observers say Mayor Nagin, who is black, has lost favor among the white population of New Orleans over his leadership in the wake of Katrina, and may lose because of the absence of the city's majority-black voting population.

Rebuilding plans, and the money to pay for them, are still a subject of intense debate. The next mayor will help determine how the city is rebuilt.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.