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Good ... Now Just Vote No

September 24, 2003

Common sense prevailed Tuesday as an 11-member panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ordered California's recall election to be held Oct. 7 as originally scheduled. The American Civil Liberties Union then did the prudent thing by declining to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. There would have been little chance that the nation's highest court would have taken up the politically loaded case.

The San Francisco panel firmly rejected the idea that the use of punch-card ballots in Los Angeles and five other counties would have disenfranchised substantial numbers of voters in those areas. The court said in a summary of the ruling that "plaintiffs will suffer no hardship that outweighs the stake of the state of California and its citizens in having this election go forward as planned."

In fact, there was substantial evidence that postponing the election until the March 2 primary, as the ACLU wanted, might have disenfranchised even more voters as they faced new and unfamiliar voting machinery. County officials had said it would be virtually impossible for them to handle a ballot with 135 gubernatorial candidates at the same time as the primary.

Tuesday's decision was a sharp rebuke to a three-justice panel that stunned California on Sept. 15 by voting to put off the election.

The ACLU tried to equate the use of the discredited punch-card ballots with the problem of the hanging chads in the 2000 Florida election. But the situation was never similar. The Florida count was halted because rules for recounting ballots varied from county to county. California has a single standard for recounts.

Still, the silliness continued this week when Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), who financed the recall petition drive and doesn't want to see the GOP vote divided, suggested that voters oppose the recall unless one of the two leading Republicans dropped out. Issa's suggestion that voters reject the recall is right, although its partisan reasoning is wrong. The recall of the governor should be rejected because it would be bad for the state. If it prevails, any state chief executive could be yanked from office without compelling reason. The economic and political instability that California has seen this year would become a permanent condition.

The appeals court has properly decided that the show, or rather, the election, must go on. In less than two weeks, we hope, the voters of California will end the recall cycle once and for all.

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