News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Voter registration issue
no place for politics

Alabama used to have a separate Office of Voter Registration run by Anita Tatum, who worked with county registrars to update the official records of registered voters. When Nancy Worley took office as secretary of state in 2003, she persuaded the Legislature to put the office and the voter lists under her control, where they should be.

The popular Ms. Tatum promptly resigned under pressure from Ms. Worley.

Thus began Democrat Worley’s troubles as secretary of state that continued when she failed to meet a deadline for establishing a voter database that is required by the federal Help America Vote Act. The Justice Department sued Ms. Worley for failing to meet a Jan. 1 federal deadline for implementing the computerized file. A federal judge in August gave Gov. Bob Riley the task.

Ms. Worley said she needed more time to accomplish the job and more money to make sure the mammoth job gets done correctly.

Underlying the politics of the voter flap is Ms. Worley’s hard-nosed personality. Her relations with voter registrars suffered after the easygoing Ms. Tatum left. She said she couldn’t work with the new secretary of state.

So, that is the theme of Auditor Beth Chapman’s campaign to unseat the first-term Democrat. It’s either politics or incompetence that is driving the Republican effort to oust Ms. Worley.

Ms. Worley says its politics; Ms. Chapman says its personality and failure to do the job. Evidence supports both conclusions.

While registrars are political appointees, using them in a political campaign isn’t wise, as Ms. Chapman did this week when 30 went to Montgomery to bash Ms. Worley.

The worst thing that can happen to a democratic form of government is for politicians to use the voting mechanism for partisan purposes.

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