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Court Postpones California Governor Recall Election - 2003-09-15

A federal appeals court has postponed California's recall election against Governor Gray Davis. The court cited what it calls "defects" in the punch-card ballots used in some voting districts, which it said would disenfranchise some of the state's voters.

Californians were to decide October 7 whether or not to remove Democratic Governor Davis from office, and choose a possible replacement from among 135 candidates. But the three-member appeals court said that allowing the vote to proceed would deny voters in six California counties "equal protection of the laws," in violation of the U.S. constitution.

Civil liberties groups had pushed for a delay, arguing that minorities who are concentrated in cities like Los Angeles would have their voices stifled by an early election. The judges accepted the argument that ballot defects would result in 40,000 votes not being counted.

The delay was good news for Democrats, including the governor. African-American and Hispanic voters tend to be Democrats, and most of them oppose the recall.

Peter Ragone, a Davis supporter and spokesman for the group "No on the Recall," applauds the court's decision. "Anything that would lead to more people voting in this recall election is something that we support. Enfranchisement is good for the state of California. If it happens to help us out politically as well, so be it," he said.

It is not clear when the vote will take place, but a possible date is March 2, when the next regular election is planned.

Darrell Issa, the wealthy Republican congressman who bankrolled the recall effort, says a delay would hurt all California voters. He says the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which made Monday's ruling, has a history of decisions that favor liberal causes. He considers this one of them. He said that backers of the recall plan to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. "I am confident that, like so many other decisions of the Ninth Circuit, this one will be swiftly and decisively overturned and vacated, and that Californians will go to the polls as scheduled on October 7 and decide California's future," he said.

Governor Davis says he will stay on the campaign trail, working to keep his job, regardless of when the election happens. "This recall has been like a roller-coaster. There are more surprises than you can possibly imagine. And I'm just going to keep focused, keep telling people why I think this recall is bad for them," he said.

He said the recall is expensive, costing $70 million, and is diverting the state from problems like a poor economy.