Calif. Judge: Oct. 7 Vote Will Go On

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California's recall election will be held on Oct. 7 as scheduled, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled Wednesday.

Judge Stephen Wilson rejected a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (search) that claimed punch-card voting machines used by at least six counties cannot accurately tally votes.

Wilson said the will of the people will not be subverted by lawsuits. The secretary of state's office certified more than 1.3 million signatures earlier this month belonging to registered voters who are seeking a recall election of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis (search).

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (search) scheduled the election 75 days after receiving the signatures. State law requires that an election be held within 60 to 80 days of the July 23 certification.

The ACLU hasn't given up hope of pushing back the election. Two other federal court challenges have been filed to delay the vote. ACLU attorneys said Wednesday that they would file an appeal to Wilson's ruling.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department accepted the Oct. 7 election date in response to two civil rights lawsuits filed in San Jose federal court. Those suits seek to move the vote to March 2, the date of California's scheduled primary.

The ACLU of Southern California suit, filed on behalf of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (search) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles (search), asked that the recall be pushed back until the primary so that Los Angeles, Mendocino, Santa Clara, San Diego, Sacramento and Solano counties could remove punch-card voting machines and replace them with modern touch-screens or written ballots.

The punch-card voting machine has been badly maligned since the 2000 Florida presidential cote controversy, in which hanging chads (search) raised questions of voter intent. The lawsuit claims the punch-card machines have error rates as high as 3 percent.

The state's attorney argued that it was premature to speculate what may happen with the punch-card machines and that delaying the election would be a disservice to voters.

In the San Jose cases, the U.S. Justice Department's approval for the Oct. 7 election was required because four counties — Monterey, Merced, Kings and Yuba — have violated the federal Voting Rights Act and have a history of low voter participation, particularly among minorities.

DOJ has not yet made a decision on the validity of claims that cost-cutting in Monterey would eliminate 104 polling places, disenfranchising minority voters.  The department has until Aug. 29 to give its approval.

Until then, absentee ballots for overseas voters will not be seen, by order of U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, who was waiting for the Justice Department's decision.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.