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Federal Court Delays California Recall Election

BY Admin  September 15, 2003 at 3:35 PM EDT

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued a 66-page decision Monday around 10 a.m. local time that said the election cannot proceed because some jurisdictions in the state still use punch card ballots that have been ruled unreliable.

A February 2002 court decision said that California counties must replace the antiquated voting system. County election officials were in the process of doing so when the recall election was scheduled.

The recall election was triggered on July 23 after California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley certified 1.3 million recall petition signatures. Under state law, 900,000 signatures were required to force an election.

After the signatures were certified, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a current candidate to replace Davis, was required to schedule the election within 60-80 days. He scheduled the election for Oct. 7 — 77 days from the certification announcement.

The American Civil Liberties Union, along with other plaintiffs in the case, had argued that the punch card voting system, which six California counties have yet to replace, would disenfranchise some voters.

State officials argued that possible problems with the punch card machines should not delay the election because it was requested by California citizens via the petition.

The ACLU argued that the recall election could still be held after the punch card system is completely replaced. The court agreed.

“In sum, in assessing the public interest, the balance falls heavily in favor of postponing the election for a few months,” the court said, according to the Associated Press.

Monday’s appeals court decision overrules U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson, who said in August that the recall should proceed despite problems with the voting system because it is the will of the voters.

Legal experts said the 9th Circuit Court could move the election to the regularly scheduled March 2 primary election.

None of the gubernatorial candidates offered immediate comment. A spokesman for Davis said the governor supports the decision.

“Anything that leads to greater enfranchisement in California is something we support,” said spokesman Peter Ragone, according to the Associated Press.

The court’s order is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

One recall supporter said a challenge to the 9th Circuit Court’s decision would be drafted within 24 hours.

All three judges on the 9th Circuit Court are reportedly Democratic appointees, one by former President Carter and two by former President Clinton.