San Francisco, Aug. 8 (Reuters): California’s Supreme Court yesterday dismissed all five cases that challenge various aspects of the unprecedented October 7 recall ballot against governor Gray Davis, including the main one brought by Davis himself.
The surprise refusal to hear the cases was a major blow to Davis, who saw the court fight as a key element in his strategy to play for time and allow the recall fervour to subside.
“The California Supreme Court today unanimously denied relief in four of the five cases filed before it involving the special recall election set for October 7, 2003,” the court said in a statement accompanying the order. “In the fifth case... the court denied relief by a five to two vote.”
The highest profile case challenging the recall was filed by Davis seeking to delay the election until next March and allow him to be on the list of replacement candidates should a majority vote to recall. The rulings were the latest news in fast-moving developments over the past day which have included an announced run for governor by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and abrupt departure of the man who bankrolled the recall petition drive, Republican congressman Darrell Issa.
“I’m sorry that we didn’t win but I’m glad we brought these issues here. We won’t have a period after the election when we don’t have a governor,” said Jerry Falk, lawyer in one of the cases dismissed by the court, the Frankel vs Shelley case.
Two of the cases, Frankel vs Shelley and Byrnes vs Bustamante, argued that the recall ballot should not include a second question on who should replace Davis in the event the recall is approved by voters. The lawsuits said Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante should assume the position should Davis be ousted.
A third case challenged the way candidates filed to be on the ballot, a procedure that is scheduled to come to a close tomorrow.
Another suit says the state should not hold two separate ballot initiatives at the same time as the recall. One of them is a controversial measure that would ban California from collecting most data that categorises people by race.
In addition to these five cases, a number of other courts are still reviewing challenges to the recall as state officials work out the mechanics for the first recall of its kind in state history.
The American Civil Liberties Union of southern California filed a legal challenge in the federal court yesterday, this time to the use of punch-card voting machines employed by eight million voters in six counties.
In its lawsuit, the ACLU charged that the VotoMatic and Pollstar machines — the same as the machines at the centre of the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida — would disenfranchise the mainly minority voters who would be forced to use them in the October 7 recall.