Roll on with the recall

By on September 25, 2003

For those of you who are not familiar with the political circus that is currently taking place out in California, here is a quick summary.

Democratic Governor Gray Davis, who has seen his approval ratings drop as low as 20% as a result of his handling of the state’s budget and energy crisis, faces a “recall” election, in whish a two-part question is asked. The first asks California voters, yes or no, whether or not to recall Davis. The second question asks Californians to choose a replacement governor from a list of candidates in the event that the recall passes. Perhaps the biggest difference between this format and a regular election is that there are as many as 135 candidates running to replace Davis.

The recall election had been scheduled for October 7, but the American Civil Liberties Union has naturally found a problem with that plan. Why? Because six California counties, including Los Angeles and San Diego, still use a punch-card ballot voting system. In case you do not remember, that is the same system that left federal courts defining “hanging chads” in the aftermath of the flawed Florida Presidential election in 2000.

The similarities do not end there. In the famous Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore that effectively decided the 2000 election, the Court argued that the seemingly endless Florida recounts violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution by placing more emphasis on the votes from certain counties over others.

The ACLU recently led a challenge to the California recall, arguing that citizens in the six counties in question will not receive equal protection due to the flaws in the punch-card voting system.

It is a masterly crafted challenge to Bush v. Gore, a ruling that so many on the left have endlessly criticized as biased.

On September 15, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit, all appointed by Democratic Presidents, dubiously agreed with the ACLU and delayed the recall vote until the new voting systems are instituted statewide. That will not occur until March. In fact, the election could now be held on the same day as the Democratic Presidential Primary, thereby attracting more Democratic voters and increasing Davis’ case for survival.

However, there are a few interesting issues that immediately come to mind here. Number one, you can not overlook the fact the Ninth Circuit Court is widely regarded as the most liberal and activist court in the nation-last year alone 75% of its decisions were overruled by the supreme court.

Second, the courts reasoning. By claiming the difference’s in California’s voting systems constitute a violation of citizens’ Equal Protection rights, it is missing a larger point. Does anyone really think in every other state, the voting systems are exactly uniform across the board? Of course not. Yet we do not see elections being judged unconstitutional left and right based on this.

In fact, if you read Bush v. Gore, you won’t find any condemnation of varying voting systems in Florida. The complex opinion there dealt with already cast ballots marked the same being counted differently depending on the county.

The third point is the most glaring. The punch-=card systems currently in use in those six counties are the exact same machines that were used last November when Davis won reelection by a comfortable six percentage points.

We all knew the problems with the system then as well as we know them now.

So why did the ACLU not complain last November? Because Davis was almost assured re-election. This is a plain-view example of political partisanship and hypocrisy. It is astounding that a system that was fine ten months ago has all of sudden become such a constitutional hazard.

Add to that the fact that most California election officials consider a March election to be a virtual impossibility for them to pull off under the new system, and containing more Equal Protection issues for voters.

Just imagine the size of a voter’s ballot in March.

On it would be the 130-plus candidates for governor, 10-plus Democratic candidates for president, and numerous other primary candidates for the US Senate and House, state legislature, and various other local offices.

The long list could force the state to produce two ballots of each voter.

All this under a brand new voting system that is sure to lead to some confusion among voters. Do California election officials really want to risk explaining both the new system and how to navigate the long, separate ballots to each voter?

In addition, the long ballots would take much more time to sort and count, and it would take longer than usual to obtain results, always a nightmare when a close finish is expected (as we saw in Florida).

Would people supporting the delay of this recall election actually recommend that worse sounding scenario as opposed to dealing with the punch-card system for one more election? They would likely have as many problems with that situation as they have with this one.

As of this writing, the Ninth circuit panel decision is being appealed to the full bench of that same court.

Ultimately, it could be headed to the Supreme Court, and either way it will likely turn into a partisan shouting match, all the while ignoring the will of the Californian people. The entire premise of a recall election is for it to be speedy, not long and drawn out.

This election should proceed as scheduled on October 7.


About A. J. Atchue