Appeals Court Postpones California Recall Election Until State Can Correct "Punch Card" Voting Machines

September 15, 2003 12:00 am

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Appeals Court Postpones California Recall Election Until State Can Correct “Punch Card” Voting Machines


LOS ANGELES – In a victory for California voters, a federal appeals court today ordered the postponement of the state’s recall election until all counties complete the transition away from faulty and decertified “punch card” voting machines.

“This is a victory for democracy and for California voters,”” said Mark Rosenbaum, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which filed the case along with the ACLU affiliates in Northern California and San Diego and Imperial Counties. “”The message is clear: we must not sacrifice political equality in favor of political expediency.””

Rosenbaum noted that as a nonpartisan organization, the ACLU does not take a position on the California recall vote. “”Our interest is in seeing that every single Californian goes to the polls with the confidence that his or her vote will be counted,”” he said.

The ACLU filed the case on behalf of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, the NAACP, California State Conference of Branches, and the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. The groups had filed a lawsuit against California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley over the continued use of decertified “punch card” voting machines in the upcoming recall election.

The ACLU had argued that the continued use of obsolete, decertified “punch card” voting machines in six California counties — the same machines at the center of the Florida 2000 election controversy — would have the effect of disenfranchising voters in those counties, including urban areas with large concentrations of minority voters.

“This is a victory for California voters,” said Alice Huffman, president of the NAACP California State Conference of Branches. “California voters deserve to go to the polls with the knowledge that their votes will be counted. We can’t afford a repeat of the 2000 Florida election debacle.”

California officials had already conceded that the machines are obsolete, and because of a previous ACLU lawsuit had agreed to replace them by March 2004.

“Today’s court decision represents a victory for democracy and fairness,” said Antonio Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. “Rather than proceeding with an election that would have made Florida 2000 look like a festival of democracy, the court has prudently decided to wait until the election can be conducted properly by replacing the outdated voting machines and helping to insure that proper financing is available to conduct a fair and transparent election.”

Currently, six California counties continue to use outdate, decertified, “punch card” voting machines. The six counties are: Los Angeles, Mendocino, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara, and Solano.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Southwest Voter Registration Education Project v. Shelley is online at /node/35076

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