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Like Worley, Riley to miss voting deadline

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Gov. Bob Riley has something in common with former Secretary of State Nancy Worley.

He's going to miss a deadline for developing a statewide computerized voter registration system.

The governor's legal adviser notified a federal judge that Alabama won't achieve compliance until 30 to 60 days after the court-ordered deadline of Aug. 31.

The report from the governor's office said Alabama should be more than 95 percent compliant by the deadline.

Worley, who was originally responsible for implementing the computerized system, said she wasn't surprised Riley will miss the deadline because she had told the federal judge last year that it would take until the fall to get the work done.

"Now the judge should take it away from him and let someone else do it," she said Wednesday.

The federal Help American Vote Act mandated that each state develop a computerized statewide voter registration system and provided money for equipment.

In Alabama, the job fell to the secretary of state.

Worley missed the Jan. 1, 2006, deadline for finishing the job and got sued by the U.S. Justice Department. On Aug. 8, 2006, U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins took the responsibility away from the Democratic secretary of state and gave it to the Republican governor. The judge gave Riley a deadline of Aug. 31, 2007.

In a report filed with the court Tuesday, Riley's legal adviser, Ken Wallis, said 46 counties are already part of the computerized network, and the remaining 21 counties should be online by Aug. 31.

The Alabama Department of Public Health, which keeps track of deaths in Alabama, and the state Administrative Office of Courts, which records criminal convictions that disqualify people from voting, should also be part of the network by Aug. 31.

But the state Department of Public Safety must still develop software that will enable it to be part of the network and verify Social Security numbers.

That "very complex interface" won't be completed until 30 to 60 days after the deadline, the governor's legal adviser said.

"We are not worried about this slight problem and we do not believe the judge will be either," Riley's press secretary, Tara Hutchison, said Wednesday.

The Justice Department has not yet given the court a response to Riley's notice that he will miss the deadline, department spokeswoman Cynthia Magnuson said Wednesday.

Worley has maintained throughout the process that the Justice Department's suit against her was part of a GOP plan to damage her and cause her to lose her re-election bid to Republican Beth Chapman.

"Because this was political, I'm not surprised a President Bush-appointed judge would take it away from a Democrat in what is the epitome of what we are seeing now as the politics of the Justice Department and give it to a Republican governor who said he could do it by August. Now, he's missed the deadline," Worley said in a telephone interview.

Riley's press secretary said the federal judge turned the project over to the governor because Worley hadn't even hired a computer company when the deadline passed.

"Its disappointing Ms. Worley continues trying to make this a partisan issue, and I doubt she really wants a public re-airing of her record," Hutchison said.

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

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