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Montgomery's city elections put on hold

MONTGOMERY (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department has put Montgomery's city elections, scheduled for Aug. 28, on hold while officials study allegations that some black college students won't have a chance to vote.

Justice Department officials have notified the city that they need additional information to make a final decision about the election date.

Justice Department officials had initially allowed the city to move its elections for mayor and city council seats from Oct. 2 to Aug. 28. But the department later received a letter from Alabama Democratic Conference chairman Joe Reed who said black students who attend Alabama State University would be back on campus less than a week before the election and would not be able to register to vote. Classes at ASU start Aug. 22.

City officials had originally changed the date to allow military personnel overseas enough time to return mail-in ballots if a runoff were needed. The October date would not have allowed the 42 days required by the federal government between municipal elections and runoffs.

In his letter, Reed argued that the federal requirement should apply to college students as well as military personnel.

Both Reed and city officials were informed by letter this week that "the change in election date remains legally unenforceable" until federal officials have reviewed the information from the city and made a final decision.

"That means you can't have it," said Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, who is active in the Alabama Democratic Conference. "In my opinion the date will stay Oct. 2, the way they've been having it all the time."

Mayor Bobby Bright, who is running for a third term, said he simply wants a decision on the date.

"You know what my position is? Somebody give me an official date," said Bright. "We have done everything we can and we don't want to disenfranchise anybody."

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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