Full Appeals Court to Rule on Calif. Recall Delay
- Friday, September 19, 2003
A majority of the 26 judges on the appeals court voted to form an 11-member panel to examine the postponement, which was established when judges Richard Paez, Harry Pregerson and Sidney Thomas ruled on Monday, Sept. 15, that outdated punch-card ballots used in six of the state's 58 counties might disenfranchise as many as 40,000 poor and minority voters.
One day later, the full court asked state election officials and recall proponents to file briefs by Wednesday afternoon on whether they wanted a panel of 11 judges to take on the case.
Ted Costa, chief executive of People's Advocate and one of the driving forces behind the recall, said the decision on Friday was not surprising. The judges "wanted briefs," he said. "They didn't ask for that just for fun."
According to court rules, Chief Judge Mary Schroeder will serve as head of the new panel, while the other 10 judges - seven of whom are Democrats, with three Republicans - were chosen at random.
The hearing is slated to begin at 1 p.m. Pacific time (4 p.m. Eastern time) at the court's headquarters in San Francisco. Each side will be given 30 minutes to present oral arguments.
Reaction to Friday's decision came quickly from both sides of the recall effort.
Mark Rosenbaum, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said at a press conference in Los Angeles that the ACLU was disappointed with the court's ruling.
The election should be pushed back until the March 2 presidential primary, Rosenbaum stated, or some voters will have to use outdated polling machines that "in a few months, you can buy at a garage sale."
However, recall proponents hailed the judges' move. "We are hopeful that this is a sign they are going to vacate the panel's decision and let this election go on as planned on Oct. 7," said Dave Gilliard, chief strategist for Rescue California.
"The three-judge panel was wrong on the law and wrong on the facts," Gilliard added. "Their decision was so faulty and so overtly political that we have believed all along it would be overturned."
GOP candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed that the election should go on as scheduled.
"This election doesn't begin on Oct. 7; it's occurring right now," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "Hundreds of thousands of Californians have already participated in this election by casting absentee ballots. They have every right to have their voices heard and their votes counted."
California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley confirmed Schwarzenegger's claim: "Nearly half a million people have voted in this election, and they are naturally concerned about what will happen to their votes.
"In addition, state and county election officials have spent nearly $50 million," Shelley stated, "and there are at least two million absentee ballots in the mail on their way to voters."
Shelley also urged the 9th Circuit Court judges to make their decision quickly. "Regardless of what the court decides to do, voter participation will not be helped by prolonged uncertainty," he said.
Meanwhile, the target of the recall - Gov. Gray Davis - was campaigning in Los Angeles with fellow Democrat and former Vice President Al Gore when Friday's decision was announced.
"I believe we will beat the recall on Oct. 7," Davis said. "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."
See Earlier Story:
Appeals Court Delays California Recall Election (Sept. 16, 2003)
E-mail a news tip to Randy Hall.
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