Wednesday, August 13, 2003
ACLU Asks Federal Judge in Los Angeles for Recall Election Delay
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
The American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal judge yesterday to postpone the recall election, arguing that it will take until March to replace punch-card voting machines the group claims would disenfranchise thousands of Californians.
The ACLU of Southern California filed the request for a temporary restraining order in the lawsuit that it filed last Thursday seeking to postpone the Oct. 7 election.
The suit contends the machines—which caused such furor over “hanging chads” in Florida during the 2000 presidential race—have an error rate of 2 to 3 percent and could leave many votes uncounted, especially those in heavily minority counties.
The machines currently are used in Los Angeles, Alameda, Mendocino, San Diego, Shasta and Solano counties.
“We know with certainty that tens of thousands of California voters will be disenfranchised if the election is not postponed,” ACLU attorney Ben Wizner said. An ACLU spokesperson said a hearing on the TRO request will take place Monday at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson of the Central District of California.
Wizner pointed out the ballot will be especially complicated because so many candidates are seeking to replace Gov. Gray Davis. The secretary of state has received candidate applications from 247 people.
“This may make the Florida election, with its butterfly ballots, seem like small-time,” he said.
Liz Kanter, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Recall supporter Dave Gilliard, strategist for the group Rescue California, said he doubted the TRO would be granted.
“At this point, Californians expect, and every court has ruled, that there is going to be an election in October,” he said. “I don’t believe the federal courts will interject themselves into a state issue.”
A call seeking comment from the governor’s anti-recall campaign was not immediately returned.
The California Supreme Court last week dismissed a petition by Davis that also sought to postpone the election until March.
The ACLU hopes to build on a favorable ruling handed down in 2001 in a federal case that ended with California agreeing to replace punch-card voting machines with other devices by March. Wilson was also the judge in that case.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company