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U.S. Appeals Court to Revisit Recall Delay Ruling

BY Admin  September 19, 2003 at 4:15 PM EST

The case will likely be reheard Sept. 22.

Last week, a three-member panel of 9th Circuit judges ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs who had argued that the Oct. 7 election should be postponed because outdated, error-prone voting equipment could disenfranchise some citizens.

California voters were to have decided on Oct. 7 whether to retain Gov. Gray Davis or replace him with one of a long list of candidates.

Some California counties, however, have not completed updates to their antiquated voting systems as they were compelled to do under a February 2002 federal court decision.

Six counties, including some of the state’s most populous, were still in the process of replacing the old systems when the recall election was scheduled. Those counties immediately began making preparations to use the old systems to tally recall votes.

The recall election was triggered 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.

State officials have argued that possible problems with older voting machines should not delay the election because California citizens requested the new election via the petition.

In a brief to the court requesting the rehearing, Shelley argued that state officials were required by California law to hold the recall election within 60-80 days from the date of the petition certification and that the state has a “compelling public interest” to stick to the election schedule stipulated by the law.

Shelley further argued that the three-judge panel’s decision to postpone the election was “an extraordinary remedy involving a far-reaching power” and that the decision was a “departure from settled precedent.”

Davis, campaigning in Los Angeles with former Vice President Al Gore, said he was ready for the election.

“I believe we will beat the recall on Oct. 7. My attitude is, let’s just get it over with, let’s just have this election on Oct. 7, put this recall behind us so we can get on with governing the state of California,” Davis said according to the Associated Press.

The chief justice of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and ten 9th Circuit judges who will be chosen at random will rehear the case.

According to the AP, the court rehears about a dozen cases each year and usually reverses the original three-judge panel’s decision.

Proponents of the movement to recall Davis have said they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.