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Candidates Welcome Court Review of California Recall Delay Decision - 2003-09-20

Both Republicans and Democrats are welcoming news that a Federal appeals court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, will review a decision that postponed the October 7 recall election against the state's governor. A three-judge panel of the court delayed the vote Monday, pointing to error-prone ballots used in some California counties. Governor Gray Davis expects an early election, and another state official is urging a quick decision.

California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, a Democrat who coordinates elections in the state, says nearly half a million Californians have already cast their recall ballots by mail. Typically, one-quarter of California voters vote by absentee ballot, and more than two million ballots have already been sent out to voters.

Monday, a three-judge panel of the same court delayed the election until six California counties could replace their obsolete punch-card voting machines. In response to Friday's announcement, Mr. Shelley urged a ruling "as soon as possible."

Earlier, lawyers for Governor Davis had argued unsuccessfully that the election be delayed. The American Civil Liberties Union later made the same argument successfully.

Surprisingly, the governor said Friday he was pleased that the delay will be reconsidered. Polls show his standing with the voters is starting to improve as his campaign gains momentum, helped this week by visits from high-profile Democrats, including former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.

"I believe we will beat the recall on October 7, and my attitude is, let's just get it over with," he said. "Let's just have this election on October 7, put this recall behind us, so we can get on with governing in the state of California."

Republicans and other backers of the recall had condemned the court delay, and Republican candidate Tom McClintock welcomed the court's decision to review the ruling.

"I was shocked by the temerity of the original decision. I do believe this election will take place October 7," he said. "It has to. This is a constitutionally called election. That's not something to mess around with in a democracy."

The American Civil Liberties Union will ask the court to uphold the delay until all California voters have access to up-to-date voting machines. An 11-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court will hear arguments Monday.

Whatever the court decides, the case could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. With a scheduled election date just two-and-a-half weeks away, the leading candidates say they are campaigning on the assumption that, one way or the other, the election will go ahead October 7.