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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2007
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Justice Department wants hearing on state voting system

MONTGOMERY (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department asked a federal judge Tuesday to hold a hearing on Gov. Bob Riley's request for more time to develop a statewide computerized voter registration system that was due Aug. 31.

Justice Department attorneys filed court papers saying a hearing is necessary to understand the nature and causes of the delay and "to convince all concerned that full compliance will be achieved" within the extra two months requested by Riley.

Jeff Emerson, Riley's communications director, said the governor was fine with the request for a court hearing. "We'll make sure the appropriate people are there," he said.

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins has not yet scheduled the hearing.

After Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002, the federal government gave Alabama $41 million to implement the law and set a deadline of Jan. 1, 2006, for Alabama to develop a statewide computerized voter registration system that is required by the act. After then-Secretary of State Nancy Worley missed the deadline, the Justice Department sued the state.

Watkins transferred the job to Riley last year and gave him a deadline of Aug. 31. On the deadline, Riley reported to the judge that the work was substantially complete, but he requested two more months to finish the job.

The delay stems from developing computer interfaces with the state Department of Public Health, Administrative Office of Courts, and state Department of Public Safety. Among other things, they will provide notice when someone should be removed from the voting rolls because of a death or conviction.

Justice Department attorneys said in their court filing that Riley had "advance notice as early as January 2006 that the three interfaces that are now expected to be delayed had not been established."

Emerson said work is continuing and there should be no problem completing it by the end of October.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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