SAN FRANCISCO - In an unusual step, the federal appeals court that turned California politics upside down by postponing the Oct. 7 recall election signaled Tuesday it might be willing to reconsider.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asked California election officials and recall proponents to file briefs by this afternoon on whether they want an 11-judge panel to reconsider Monday's ruling by a three-judge panel.
If the court decides to grant a new hearing, the 11 judges can uphold the original ruling to delay the election or overturn it and restore the Oct. 7 date. The losing party can then appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tuesday's decision came a day after the three-judge panel noted that as many as 40,000 votes might not get counted in the recall vote because six California counties use error-prone punch-card ballots, the same system that sent the 2000 presidential race into chaos. In making its ruling, the panel leaned heavily on the Bush vs. Gore case that effectively decided the 2000 election.
The judges agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union that the recall could be decided during the regularly scheduled March 2 presidential primary. The counties, including the state's most populous, Los Angeles, are under a separate court order to upgrade to more reliable machines in time for the primary.
A legal expert said Tuesday's move probably will keep the Supreme Court out of California politics for now.
"It most likely delays any Supreme Court action until the court acts," said Rory Little, a Hastings College of the Law professor who follows the appeals court.