Nevada clerks say they can't switch to a new statewide voter registration system by next month's federal deadline because the system isn't reliable or finished yet.
The federal Help America Vote Act requires all states to have a statewide voter registration system in place by Jan. 1. The project has been managed by the Secretary of State's Office, which contracted with Covansys to design the computer program.
"It is the position of the 17 clerks and registrars in the state of Nevada that we cannot convert by Jan. 1, 2006, to the statewide voter registration system being developed by Covansys," wrote Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax in a letter to Secretary of State Dean Heller dated Nov. 30.
"It would be irresponsible on our part to switch to a system that would not allow us to carry out our statutory responsibilities and that would severely diminish our ability to provide even basic election-related services to the residents of our counties."
Carson City Clerk Alan Glover said he and other clerks agree the system isn't ready.
"There's absolutely no way that thing can be done by the first of January. There's been no training, no conversion and we really have only two weeks because we're starting to get into the holiday season."
Heller's Chief Deputy Renee Parker and Glover said the state has developed a compromise that could satisfy both the clerks and federal officials while giving Covansys time to finish the system.
"We'll stick with our own systems through the 2006 elections," Glover said. "We'll just give them the data and they'll run it into their server.
"That will allow the state to run (the registration lists) against DMV and Social Security records to make sure people are who they say they are."
Parker said the clerks would file their latest voter registration data with the state daily and the state would put it in a central database that connects with both DMV and Social Security systems, satisfying HAVA requirements, which include catching voter fraud.
He said the complete system must handle petitions, voter registration, candidate filing, polling place management and a long list of other issues.
He said the biggest issue is the inability of clerks to get the reports they need.
In his letter to Heller, Lomax said the inability to run reports "on any subject" would prevent clerks from providing parties with the number of registered voters in a precinct, provide voters directions to their polling place, tell them who represents them or what contests a voter can vote in.
He said the system remains "unacceptably burdensome to navigate and operate" and that, as it operates now, Clark County would also lose the ability to track Hispanic voters, as required by the Justice Department.
Parker said the Secretary of State's Office shares those concerns.
"Everybody agrees this thing has to function for Nevada," she said. "We can't be in a situation where we're worried it might affect the integrity of the election."
Glover said Nevada isn't alone in needing more time. Colorado recently threw out its system and started over, and he said other states are asking for more time.
n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.