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California Recall Delayed

Aired September 15, 2003 - 13:17   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, looks like the California countdown might have another change in the numbers or the days leading up to the recall election. We're going to go straight to Los Angeles with Bob Franken. New developments now with regard to a possible delay -- Bob.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The countdown, in fact, has been delayed by a three-judge federal appeals panel that has just ruled, quoting from the opinion the three judges put out, "The secretary of state is enjoined from conducting an election on any issue on October 7, 2003. In view of the pendency (ph) of the election, we direct the clerk of court to issue the mandate forthwith, but stay our order for seven days to allow parties to seek further relief from this decision if they so desire."

So the election has been put on hold. The secretary of state's office has already indicated it would be seeking a stay, would be seeking to overturn that decision. Now normal procedure would be to have the hearing what is called and "en banke" (ph) hearing with a larger group of federal appeals judges. This was three judges who heard this one. Or there may be an effort to go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, of course, is not in session right now. The justice who handles this region of the United States is Sandra Day O'Connor. They could seek a stay from the Supreme Court of this ruling or they could seek some sort of hearing.

So things are a bit in legal turmoil. But the bottom line is that the secretary of state is no longer able to prepare for this election. The election, of course, that was to be held in less than a month.

There was a hearing last week in front of those three judges, the appeals court judges in Pasadena. They were hearing a case that had already been turned down. It was an ACLU-led lawsuit. A lower court said no, the election would go forward, but these judges made it clear early on that the election to overturn the governorship of Gray Davis, who you see here, was in fact one that may not meet the requirements of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, the equal protection clause.

The reason being that six of the most populous counties in the states are the ones that have the concentration of minorities and poor people,still used old paper ballots, the punch card ballots with their hanging chads. We all remember those from Florida. So these judge have ruled that that a result means that people do not get equal representation. Therefore the election must be stopped.

This is, of course, a significant -- hugely significant election and one that has cost the state huge amounts of money, has brought in national figures, has stirred passions. Of course there's been the candidacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger and 135 total candidates to replace Gray Davis.

But now that election is in doubt, along with a number of propositions that were on the election, some of them controversial. A huge ruling -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Huge ruling, indeed. And also, I guess, a huge stop in the process. I mean you've been talking about the legal turmoil and all of the time from the media and all the debates and everything we've been talking about. I mean where does this put us, Bob? How long could this take?

FRANKEN: Well, first of all, it could take seven days before somebody decides to seek a stay. And the question is to seek a stay from whom?

These judges could stayed their own decision, but they felt strongly enough about it that they decided not to. They only invited the parties if they wanted to seek a decision for a stay if they wanted to seek a decision for a stay if they wanted to.

Actually they did put a stay on, but they did not in fact say that they would schedule an appeal. The judges said the clerk of court is to issue the mandate, but stay the order for seven days allowing an appeal, but they set no road map for a stay or an appeal. Not a road map if they go the normal procedure which is the appeals court. Or to speed things up, go directly to the Supreme Court.

It is a major confrontation between the state government of California and the federal court system. Is the kind of thing that will bring back recollections about the Bush/Gore debate that ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court, with a strong likelihood this, too, will end up in Washington at the Supreme Court.

PHILLIPS: Bob, are you surprised by this? I mean you've been following this from the very beginning. We've joked sometimes with the twists and turns. So this is one more thing to add to the drama, isn't it?

FRANKEN: Well not absolutely surprised. The judges in their questioning last week made it clear that they had some real problems with this election going forward. They talked about, one of them talked about accepting the unacceptable, meaning the discredited punch card machines.

But the surprise comes in the fact that this is such a huge decision and has such constitutional implications that many believe that they might as a result of that just go along with the lower court. But the judges followed their obvious desires and have decided that they would stop this election.

PHILLIPS: All right. Our Bob Franken, following the story out of California.

Once again if you're just tuning in, October 7 was the date of the recall election that has now according to the courts, been stopped and a delay in process.


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