Local political representatives greeted the decision this week by a
federal court to delay the Oct. 7 special election to recall Gov.
Gray Davis with a mixture of frustration, agreement and zeal to move
ahead with a process that has cost the state millions of dollars.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled
Monday that the special recall election must be postponed until at
least March because of antiquated voting machines used in six
California counties, including Los Angeles. County officials have
reportedly said voting machines will be revamped by March. The same
punch-card machines were at issue in the 2000 presidential election,
sparking concerns over accuracy and equal access to the polls.
“We are especially mindful of the need to demonstrate our
commitment to hold elections fairly, free of chaos, with each citizen
assured that his or her vote will be counted, and with each vote
entitled to equal weight,” the judges wrote in the opinion. “A short
postponement of the election will accomplish those aims and reinforce
our national commitment to democracy.”
Advocates of the recall have vowed to appeal the ruling, setting
up a possible review by the U.S. Supreme Court if the Court of
Appeals stays the opinion. Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, the
state’s top election official, reportedly said Tuesday that he would
submit a brief to the court today asking for an 11-member panel of
the same court to overturn the panel’s decision.
“It is a bombshell,” state Sen. Jack Scott (D-Glendale) said. “I
am sympathetic with the voters who are anxious to have the matter
resolved, but I have to defer to the courts.”
Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D-Burbank) said the vote raises the
question of whether federal law can trump state law on such matters.
Still, Frommer agreed with the decision on the question of equal
access to the ballot box.
“You would have many voters in the state using old punch- card
systems, which would be troublesome,” he said. “It needed to be
examined. I’ve always been concerned that there would be a number of
people in the state that would be disenfranchised by this process.”
Frommer and others, however, did express concern over the cost of
the election and further delays, which already have cost the state an
estimated $60 million to $70 million.
The court’s ruling did not sur- prise Republican Party officials.
“We’ve seen the U.S. 9th Circuit on numerous occasions act
completely in conflict with the electorate, and almost contrary to
common sense,” said Mike Wintemute, press secretary for the
California Republican Party.
Delay or no delay, Wintemute said it will not affect what he said
was the recall’s momentum.
“I don’t think it is a major problem,” he said. “It will take more
resources, but the governor is unpopular, and I do not think that’s
going to change between now and March.”
But the momentum is moving the other way, state Democrats said.
“Politically, we believe the momentum against the recall would
lead to the defeat of the recall on Oct. 7,” said Bob Mulholland,
California Democratic Party advisor. “We have to comply with what is
legal, and if a delay is what the court decides, then we do not