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THE STATE | RECALL NOTEBOOK

Decision on Voting Change Delayed

August 30, 2003|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A panel of three federal judges on Friday gave the Justice Department one more week to decide whether voting changes planned for the recall election in Monterey County comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.

In the meantime, the judges extended a temporary restraining order that forbids the county from mailing out absentee ballots to voters overseas.

The court set a hearing for Friday to determine what to do next.

Like many California counties, Monterey plans to reduce the number of polling places for the Oct. 7 election.

Because the county's voting history subjects it to the requirements of the Voting Rights Act, the change in polling places must be cleared by federal officials.

If it is not cleared on time, the judges could order the election postponed -- a decision that would have statewide impact.

The decision to give the Justice Department one more week, however, suggests that the judges are reluctant to take such a step, lawyers said. "I guess they are thinking that the Department of Justice determination is imminent and maybe a few more days is not going to disrupt the election process unduly," said Joaquin Avila, one of the attorneys for the civil rights groups that have challenged Monterey's election plans.

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McClintock's Bid to Be in Voter Guide Rejected

State Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) lost his bid for inclusion in the voter information guide for the Oct. 7 recall election Friday when the state Supreme Court denied his request.

"That's too bad," said John Feliz, his campaign director. "But it means nothing."

Feliz said he was worried when he first learned that McClintock had been denied access to the guide, which is published and distributed free to voters by the secretary of state's office, because he checked a box on a Fair Political Practices Commission form saying he would not agree to follow new voluntary campaign expenditure limits.

When he tried to amend his response, McClintock was told he could not, Feliz said.

So the candidate sued, contending his 1st Amendment rights were violated.

Feliz said he would not lose sleep over the ruling but added that the public should be outraged by the "ridiculous bureaucratic rule" that forbid McClintock to change his mind to secure space in the voter guide.

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Group Donates to Davis, Then Seeks Return

The Democratic Governors' Assn. sent $250,000 to Gov. Gray Davis' anti-recall committee, then asked for it back while it tries to figure out whether it exceeded state limits, association spokeswoman Nicole Harburger said.

"There is no terra firma in California right now," Harburger said, referring to the convoluted campaign finance laws dictating the recall campaign.

"We want to send financial resources and speed is our priority," she said, adding that a likely possibility would be to reroute the money through the national Democratic Party.

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Nationwide Interest Groups to Sit Out Recall

Several of the nation's most powerful interest groups say they plan to stay out of California's recall, citing the high cost of campaigning, the chaos of the race or simply a policy of skipping state elections.

"There's no way," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's political director, Bill Miller, said when asked whether the huge lobby, which represents 3 million businesses nationally, will get involved.

Other national groups steering clear include the National Assn. of Manufacturers, League of Conservation Voters, Business Industry Political Action Committee, American Medical Assn., National Federation of Independent Business, Assn. of Trial Lawyers of America and National Assn. of Realtors.

However, the AFL-CIO and several other national labor organizations plan a big push in the race. The AFL-CIO will send staff to California to help get out the union vote for Davis and the Democratic replacement candidate, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, spokeswoman Lane Windham said, adding that there's no price tag yet.

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is raising money to send to California to fight recall.

Others who may spend include the moderate Republican Leadership Council, which has endorsed Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger; and the National Rifle Assn.

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Artist Offers Seedless Portraits of Candidates

When Hugh McMahon calls top recall candidates "melon heads," he means it as a compliment. Really.

McMahon has been dubbed the Michelangelo of watermelon carvers, and is famous for rendering portraits of famous people in the fruit. On Friday, McMahon traveled to the Long Beach Harvest Festival to unveil his latest masterworks -- watermelon busts of Gov. Gray Davis and gubernatorial candidates Cruz Bustamante and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"The most difficult one was Davis, because of all the white hair," McMahon said. Working with a scalpel and fruit knife, McMahon scrapes the skin of the melons to various depths to reveal a shaded and textured image. Each bust takes two hours.

Festival-goers have, for the most part, enjoyed the artworks, but McMahon said some have expressed a desire to smash the Davis melon.

McMahon's melons usually sell for $150 to $250, although the candidate carvings may sell for a much higher price among political partisans, according to Kati Schmidt, Harvest Festival publicist.

"Think of it, if you want Schwarzenegger's head on a platter at your next celebration, you have that option," Schmidt said.

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