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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Saturday | August 16, 2003

Judge may delay recall vote

A federal judge in California is considering delaying the October 7 recall election.

A federal judge said Friday he may postpone California's Oct. 7 recall vote, and he ordered Monterey County to refrain from mailing out overseas ballots until issues raised by two civil rights groups are resolved.

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel's ruling came hours after the civil rights groups argued that the hurry-up election is forcing changes in the voting process that require federal approval.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, any changes in the voting process must be pre-cleared by the Justice Department in places like Monterey County that have a history of low voter participation.

"I don't think there can be an election without pre-clearance," warned Fogel during two hours of oral arguments Friday. Later in the day, he scheduled another hearing for Aug. 29 and suggested he may delay the election if federal approval hasn't happened by then.

If the election is delayed until March, the Dems will have this one in the bag. The Dem primary should still be in play at the time, driving increased Dem voter turnout. In addition, much of the anti-Davis sentiment may have waned, especially considering California's budget is, for the moment, balanced.

There is one potential hitch:

The California Attorney General's office and Monterey County officials conceded that they need federal approval, and that without it, the entire recall election, including the two voter initiatives on the ballot, would have to be postponed, perhaps to the March primary.

Justice Department spokesman Jorge Martinez said the department was reviewing the state's pre-clearance request. And if the federal government approves the changes before Oct. 7, "there's no harm, no foul," argued Leroy Blankenship, Monterey's assistant county counsel.

So, will Ashcroft's Justice Department ram through the "approval" in order to ensure the election moves forward?

Perhaps. Lawyers for the two civil rights groups filing the claim argue it's too late for federal clearance, but that issue was left untouched by the judge.

Update: The latest edition of the California Field Poll is out, and it puts Bustamante in the lead.

Before the first television ads have aired, the race to succeed California Gov. Gray Davis (D) if he is recalled came down to just two men, Republican action star Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz M. Bustamante, according to a nonpartisan statewide poll to be released Saturday.

The California Field Poll found 25 percent of registered voters opted for Bustamante followed by 22 percent for Schwarzenegger.

The other candidates trailed in single digits: State Sen. Tom McClintock took 9 percent; businessman Bill Simon won 8 percent; former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth received 5 percent; all three are Republicans. Independent and columnist Arianna Huffington got 4 percent, and Green Party candidate Peter Camejo received 2 percent.

I must admit a heavy dose of skepticism. While I fully expected numbers like these three or four weeks down the road, it seems awful early for people to start abandoning Schwarzenegger. And every other poll the past week has given Arnold solid leads.

The poll's internals are supposed to be released later today (I'm posting this early Saturday morning. I'll be looking to see if Latino support for Arnold -- strong in previous polls -- is ebbing. That would be natural with Bustamante on the ballot and the hullabaloo about Arnold, Prop 187 and Pete Wilson.

Given the controversy over Arnold advisor Buffet and Prop 13 (he suggested raising propert taxes), you've got to expect more leakage of support from the Right. And in any case, half of the respondents still haven't made solid choices.

Mark DiCamillo, director of the California Field Poll, stressed that "this is a very early look" and that almost half of those surveyed said they might change their minds before election day.
Does anyone think a Bustamante supporter will suddenly change his/her mind on behalf of Arnold? The opposite is far more likely, as the excitement and novelty of a Governator candidacy recedes.

Bottom line is I'd be shocked if this poll paints an accurate picture of the situation on the ground. It seems three or four weeks ahead of its time (insert Terminator "time travel" joke here).

Posted August 16, 2003 01:10 AM | Comments (14)


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