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US Court Reinstates California Recall Election

A U.S. appeals court has reinstated the October 7 recall election against California Governor Gray Davis. The ruling allows the vote to go ahead as scheduled.

An 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a decision made by a three-judge panel of the same court last week. That ruling had postponed the recall election until March 2. The smaller appellate panel had said problems with punch-card ballots used in six California counties would result in 40,000 votes not being counted.

But the larger panel accepted the arguments of California's top election official, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, who asked that the election go ahead as scheduled. He says many Californians have already cast their vote by absentee ballot.

Tuesday, he applauded the quick decision by the 11 judges, issued less than a day after they heard arguments.

"Their unanimous decision this morning eliminates the continuing uncertainty as to whether this special election will be held two weeks from today," Mr. Shelleys said. "We're very gratified that they appreciated the importance of not invalidating those now-670,000 votes that have already been cast in this election."

The appeals court panel said the concern that some voters would be disenfranchised because of ballot error is legitimate, but said it is only speculation that the margin of error would change the election's outcome. The panel also said that California's constitution requires a recall vote within 80 days after enough petition signatures are gathered and certified.

An official of the American Civil Liberties Union, which had asked for the delay, said she was disappointed. But spokeswoman Dorothy Ehrlich says the organization will not appeal the ruling.

"With the election just two weeks away, we do not believe that we should prolong the uncertainty any longer," she said. "At this point, it is important that the candidates, the campaigns and the voters know that the election will be held on a date that is certain."

Governor Davis faces voter anger over an ailing economy and a large state deficit, which has been carried over to future years through borrowing and transfers. Mr. Davis and his challengers, including actor-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, are continuing to campaign through television ads and personal appearances.