A state appeals court on Friday sided with a group seeking to oust Democratic Gov. Gray Davis (search), a ruling likely to hasten the certification of the recall election.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento ordered the secretary of state to direct counties to verify petition signatures as they count them.

The court said Secretary of State Kevin Shelley (search), a Democrat, provided "erroneous" instructions to county elections officials when he gave them an extra 30-day period to verify signatures on recall petitions rather than verify them immediately.

Recall proponents believed they were on track for certification next week.

"It's a complete and total victory," said James F. Sweeney, attorney for the Recall Gray Davis Committee (search). He added that it would be "highly probable" that a recall election will be certified next week.

Recall proponents claim to have given counties more than 1.6 million signatures -- more than twice the amount needed to trigger a recall.

If the recall is certified, the Democratic governor could become the first California governor ever to face the electorate on a recall ballot.

There was no immediate comment from the secretary of state.