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Tuesday, September 23, 2003


A good, clean, unanimous decision.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court's decision avoided the "chop the baby in half" solution which I had predicted below.

There seemed to be some sentiment to postpone Propositions 53 and 54 until the March primary, but then the 11-judge panel would have had to go to a lot of effort justifying such a conclusion. This way they simply deferred to the District judge's original ruling:

We recognize that there may be a stronger case on the merits for delaying the initiatives than the recall, because the initiatives were originally scheduled to be voted upon in March 2004 and would not take effect until at least 2005, while the result of the recall would be immediate. Because votes are already being cast on both the recall and the initiatives, however, moving the initiatives to a later election creates the same problem as moving the recall; an election would be halted after it has already begun. Although the claimed state electoral law violations do implicate the public interest, and the voters and ballot proponents anticipated a later election based on earlier certification, we cannot say that the district court abused its discretion in balancing the harms. Finally, we are reluctant to intercede in ballot timing of the initiatives, an electoral matter that falls within the province of the state to determine.

So what are the political consequences? The off-again on-again court orders added yet another set of unexpected twists to the entire recall drama, and may even have prevented Californians from losing interest. Now we are into the two-week home stretch. The pace will be fast, and excitement will build to a crescendo. Absentee ballots will once again pour in. Public opinion polls will pour forth. The news coverage will be non-stop recall, perhaps even approaching Gary Condit or Princess Di levels, as we come up on October 7th.

With Prop 54 still in the mix, Democrats will have a lever to get minority voters to the polls. That will help Davis some, but not nearly enough. After all, it doesn't really matter whether he loses by a 60%-to-40% or a 51%-to-49% margin; either way he's out of there.

Bustamante will get a boost, but I think it will also fall short. The decision by Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster regarding Bustamante's illegal money-laundering will add to his negatives. Especially because Bustamante is refusing to return the money to donors, claiming it's already all spent.

The main thing now is that Democrats can't scapegoat the U.S. Supreme Court for the recall election, which is the trap the 3-judge panel had tried to set up. Recall supporters still have the emotional edge, and even with Prop 54 left on the ballot they should turn out in much larger numbers than recall opponents.

One might even speculate that the confusion caused by the 3-judge panel's decision will seriously hurt the get-out-the-vote efforts of Democrats and their liberal allies. By the ACLU's logic, if minority voters are too stupid to properly handle punch-card ballots, how can you expect them to handle conflicting news reports about whether the recall election is on schedule?

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