The city requested the change so Birmingham could comply with the provisions of the new Help America Vote Act, which requires six weeks between elections and runoffs (previous Birmingham elections had allowed only three weeks) to allow for the arrival and counting of overseas and absentee ballots.
There was some question as to whether or not the DOJ would approve the election before it was too late. The DOJ requires that there be 60 days between the day they approve a change in an election date and the date of the election. The City of Birmingham's law department submitted their request on May 7, two months after Birmingham's City Council approved the date switcheroo. The delay was to allow the City's law department to research the legal issues involved with modifying an election date. At the time, City Attorney Lawrence Cooper said he asked that the DOJ expedite their request, but DOJ could not promise anything.
Council President Smitherman reported on Saturday, June 20, that the City had received its approval from the DOJ. Had Birmingham not received approval by June 26, the election would have reverted to Oct. 13.
Last week, Birmingham News reporter Joseph Bryant got some rather pessimistic quotes & comments from City Councilors on the likelihood that Birmingham would receive approval for the change in time. Check these out:
Councilwoman Valerie Abbott sees little promise that the early elections will take place, in which case the city would go another election in violation of the federal requirement, she said.
"I just don't see how they'll be willing to change the date at the last minute," she said. "It seems like, no matter what we do, it's going to cause a problem for someone. We seem to be snake bit on this one."
Councilman Steven Hoyt agreed it is unlikely an early election will occur. Hoyt, who has been interviewed by the Justice Department, blames the administration and law department for the delay in asking for approval.
(Source: Birmingham News, hat tip to this story at The Terminal)