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Riley aide criticizes Worley's handling of vote totals

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — It's official. After two counts of ballots statewide, an amendment to allow the Mobile County town of Prichard to create a "free trade zone" was defeated by a little more than 3,000 votes

But a canvassing committee made up of outgoing Secretary of State Nancy Worley and representatives of Gov. Bob Riley and Attorney General Troy King could not finish its work Friday without Worley, a former Decatur teacher, and the Riley administration trading some parting shots in what has been a contentious relationship.

The governor's representative on the panel, legal adviser Ken Wallis, said the governor was forced to delay issuing a proclamation declaring the results of the Nov. 7 general election official, because Worley did not authenticate the governor's signature on the proclamation. One of the duties of the secretary of state is to certify that the governor's signature on official documents is authentic.

Worley shot back that she did not authenticate the proclamation because the results in several races differed from the results on record in her office.

"Your duty is not to decide if the governor is correct or incorrect, but to attest his signature," Wallis responded.

"I would guess we need to tear up the proclamation that is incorrect," Worley said.

After the heated discussion, Worley and Wallis briefly went behind closed doors and returned a few minutes later to say they would agree to the results maintained in Worley's office. Riley signed the official proclamation later Friday.

Worley, a Democrat, lost the Nov. 7 election to Republican state auditor Beth Chapman. Worley has been criticized for having a high turnover among her staff and some voter registrars have said she has been unresponsive to their needs.

Earlier this year a federal judge took a federally mandated project to create a statewide voter registration database away from Worley, saying she had missed a court-ordered deadline to finish the project. U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins later threatened to find Worley in contempt of court when Riley filed a court-ordered report that said Worley had not been fully cooperative with a committee the governor appointed to help develop the database.

The recount results reviewed by the canvassing committee Friday showed the Prichard amendment failed by a vote of 408,524 to 405,374, a margin of 3,150 votes. The initial vote count after the election showed the amendment was defeated 409,372 to 406,730, a margin of 2,642 votes.

Worley said she could not explain why the vote totals varied from the original count and the recount.

The recount showed the Prichard amendment passed by more than 12,000 votes in Mobile County, but was defeated statewide. Local amendments can be approved by just a county vote if the measure was approved unanimously by the Legislature. The Prichard amendment had to face a statewide vote because one lawmaker, Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, cast a "no" vote.

The official canvass also upheld the results of recounts showing that Democrat Laura Jo Wilbourn Hamilton defeated Republican C. Michael Seibert for a Madison County circuit judgeship and that Republican J. Brian Huff defeated Democrat Andre Sparks for a Jefferson County circuit judgeship. Huff and Hamilton also had the highest vote totals in the original count.

State law provides for recounts in races where the outcome is within one-half of one percentage point.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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