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If Recalled, Davis May Be in Office for Weeks After Election

October 03, 2003|Tim Reiterman and Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — Even if Gov. Gray Davis is recalled on Tuesday, he could remain in office for several weeks beyond election day.

But recall proponents say a successor should be sworn in much faster than that, in part to avoid a flurry of last-minute appointments or decisions by Davis.

The law provides elections officials with up to 39 days -- in this case until Nov. 15 -- to officially certify that results are valid, and Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's office said that history has shown it usually takes that much time to accomplish.

Recall sponsor Ted Costa said waiting 39 days for a new governor is "just not acceptable to us," and threatened litigation if the process gets drawn out. "The new governor ... should be in there the next day. They have to get a budget prepared for January."

A spokesman for Republican candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger alleged that Davis would use the time between the recall and the swearing-in of a new governor to make lame-duck appointments. "There are very serious concerns about how a Davis administration will conduct itself in transition," said campaign spokesman Sean Walsh.

Davis Press Secretary Steven Maviglio said the governor has no plans for making last-minute appointments.

Although the recall and replacement votes may be counted and tallies announced in the hours and days after the polls close, a new governor cannot be sworn in until the election results are finalized. In the last 33 statewide elections dating back to the early 1970s, certification took an average of 38.8 days after the election, according to a study by Shelley's office.

Here is how the process works: After the polls close Tuesday and the votes are counted, county registrars will begin processing provisional ballots and the absentee ballots handed in on election day. They also will compare the number of voters who showed up at each precinct with the number of votes cast.

The registrars have 28 days to canvass or audit the results.

During that period, they will conduct a manual recount of ballots cast at 1% of the precincts.

"If there is a discrepancy, we will give [the ballots] to another group that recounts," said Kristin Heffron, deputy registrar for Los Angeles County.

"This is very labor intensive."

More than 1.6 million of the 3.1 million absentee ballots issued already have been turned in, officials said. But if a large number of them are handed in on election day, that also could delay results.

After the results are presented to the county boards of supervisors, they must be sent to the secretary of state in Sacramento within seven days.

The state's chief elections official has four more days to officially announce the results, or until Nov. 15. "You must have all 58 counties reporting for him to certify," said Terri Carbaugh, deputy secretary of state for communications. "One [county] can hold it up."

Once the vote is certified, the winning candidate has to be sworn in within 10 days.

Costa, leader of the anti-tax group People's Advocate, argued that the process can be completed faster. "It can be certified very quick," he said. "I'm not telling the local counties to speed, but I think you will find out they have their job done way before the 39-day period."

State Democratic Party spokesman Bob Mulholland said Costa is forgetting the lessons of the presidential election in Florida and the need for a very careful count, including a record number of absentee ballots. "They've all got to be counted," he said. "Let's not violate the state law."

No matter how long it takes, Costa said, he expected Davis to issue a flood of last-minute appointments and other political favors if he is recalled. "Every single governor, Republican and Democrat

Times staff writer Virginia Ellis contributed to this report.

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