US Government 'Vindicates the Rights of Alabama Voters'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - The U.S. Justice Department is suing the State of Alabama for failing to fully comply with the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

The government says Alabama is the second state in the nation to face consequences stemming from its failure to establish a statewide computerized voter registration database, as the law requires. New York faces a similar complaint.

According to the Justice Department, Alabama missed the Jan. 1, 2006, federal deadline for completing the statewide database and it still has not selected the database vendor who would create such a database.

The Justice Department said it filed suit, "only after several contacts and extensive efforts by the Civil Rights Division to convince Alabama to meet its federal obligations in a timely fashion."

"HAVA's database requirements are designed to ensure the accuracy of the voter rolls and the integrity of the electoral process in elections for federal office," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "This lawsuit is intended to vindicate the rights of the voters of Alabama, who do not, at present, enjoy all of the protections that HAVA affords."

HAVA, signed into law by President Bush, was the first federal statute to provide federal funds to the states to help reform federal elections.

The Justice Department says Alabama received over $41 million to help it meet the federal mandates contained in HAVA.

The government lawsuit seeks a determination that the state has not fulfilled HAVA's database requirements, and an order requiring the state to submit a plan describing how it will come into compliance.

According to the League of Women Voters, HAVA mandates key reforms, such improving access to polling places for disabled people; computerized voting equipment; new provisional balloting procedures, statewide voter registration databases; training for poll workers; and educating voters on the new procedures and new equipment.

To help state and local governments pay for these reforms, HAVA authorized $3.9 billion over three fiscal years, the League of Women Voters says on its website.

While Congress has come through with $3 billion, the League is now urging lawmakers to appropriate the remaining $798 million of authorized funding.

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.