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Worley speaks to Rotary

Alabama's new Secretary of State spoke to the Troy Rotary Club Tuesday afternoon, bringing details of coming reforms in the electoral process. Nancy Worley told Rotarians about President George W. Bush's &uot;Help America Vote&uot; Act, which was signed Oct. 29, and offered insight into Alabama's elections policies.

The new federal legislation will bring some changes to Alabama elections, Worley said. Among them will be the elimination of the &uot;challenge ballot&uot; process and the implementation of a new &uot;provisional ballot&uot; procedure. A voter may cast a provisional ballot if they arrive to a polling location to find that their name is not on the official list of registered voters for that precinct, do not have proper identification or if the election official were to challenge that person's right to vote in that precinct.

According to Worley, a voter will only be asked to present identification if they register to vote by mail after Jan. 1, 2003. However, Worley said that many poll workers around the state are not well informed about the law and may make improper demands of voters. To clarify the law, Worley hopes to require lists of voter rights and responsibilities to be posted at every polling location.

Worley will also be working to centralize a list of registered voters in the Secretary of State's offices in Montgomery and hopes to impose minimum standards of competency for county registrars. In addition, Worley said several Alabama counties need new voting equipment, including machines to accommodate the disabled and non-English speakers.

She also touched on November's election controversy stemming from cryptic numbers coming from Baldwin County voting machines. Then-Gov. Don Siegelman leveled allegations of vote tampering while local election officials blamed technical glitches for incongruent vote totals. Though the matter eventually sorted out in Bob Riley's favor, Worley said she supported legislation requiring automatic recounts in the case of exceedingly close elections, but added the caveat that the losing candidate should be able to concede the race and avoid a costly statewide recount.

The most pessimistic note of Worley's speech came when she downplayed to possibility of a legislative ban on transfers of money between political action committees. Long a goal of those hoping to reform campaign finance rules, the PAC to PAC ban had no chance of passing, Worley said, since incumbents were able to manipulate the system for financial gain and were unlikely to rise above self-interest and pass such a rule.

In other business, the Troy Rotary Club continued to prepare for the upcoming annual pancake supper on Feb. 27 at First Baptist Church and also set a date for the PolioPlus 5K run and one mile &uot;fun walk.&uot; The events will occur at 8 a.m. on April 12.

Stephen Stetson can be reached at stephen.stetson @troymessenger.com.