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More delays for California's voter registration database project

FILE: Voter registration and sample pamphlets in multiple languages were available after a naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center. Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

California's long-delayed VoteCal database was scheduled to become the official record of voter registrations statewide by June, but now the Secretary of State has pushed back that deadline to late August. 

Once completed, VoteCal will allow all California voters to check their registration status online regardless of what county they live in. Plus, VoteCal will permit same-day voter registration to take effect – if the project stays on time, that's expected to begin in 2017. 

But before certifying the new voter registration database, the Secretary of State's office said it needs more time for system enhancements. 

"We just want to make sure we have everything right. We’d rather take the extra time,” said Sam Mahood, a spokesman for Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Mahood noted the previous deadline was set by Padilla's predecessor. 

Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, has spent a decade monitoring the database project. The state began work on VoteCal in 2006, four years after passage of the federal Help America Vote Act, which aimed to improve the accuracy of voter rolls across the country. 

California has lagged behind the rest of the country in implementing its new electronic voter registration database. The project was especially challenging here because it involved coordinating all of the state's 58 counties. 

"We’re moving from 58 counties having 58 individual voter registration databases to one unified statewide voter registration database," she said. 

Alexander said the latest delay doesn't worry her since the lengthy project has been on track or ahead of schedule under Padilla's leadership. Work on the project has spanned four Secretary of State administrations, she said.

"I'm glad that they're taking their time to get it right," she said.