MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Unless Alabama's election law is changed, President Bush could be left off the state's presidential election ballot in 2004.
The problem is that the Republican National Convention is being held later than usual to avoid conflict with the Olympics and the GOP won't choose a candidate until Sept. 2 - two days after Alabama's Aug. 31 deadline to certify presidential candidates.
Republicans are asking the Democrat-controlled Legislature to change the law and extend the deadline until Sept. 5. That bill is on the work agenda in the House for Thursday, but some Republicans say they are concerned the bill has been placed behind several controversial issues and may not come up for consideration.
"I don't think the people know that if this doesn't pass, they won't get to vote for President Bush," said Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn. He said if the bill doesn't pass, Bush could be forced to run as a write-in in Alabama.
"I think he could win even if he was a write-in candidate," Hubbard said.
Bush received 56.4 percent of the vote in Alabama in 2000 to 41.6 percent for former Vice President Al Gore, a Democrat. Republicans have carried Alabama in the last six presidential elections.
Alabama Secretary of State Nancy Worley, the state's top elections official, said she has been working with state Republicans to try to resolve the problem.
"In fairness to them, they had no control over the date for the national convention. I have no problem supporting the bill to change the deadline. Everybody deserves a chance to vote for the person of their choice," said Worley, a Democrat.
Worley said she believes a way will be found to get Bush on the ballot, even if the Legislature fails to act.
"If we followed the law precisely, it would mean he would not be on the ballot," Worley said. "But he would be a huge write-in candidate and I'm not sure that would serve a useful purpose."
Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, Democratic floor leader in the House, said complaints about Democrats trying to delay the bill "are ludicrous."
"I made the motion to pass the bill in committee," Guin said. "If they don't pass it this year, they still have next session."