LOS ANGELES – Gov. Gray Davis (search) asked the California Supreme Court on Monday to delay his Oct. 7 recall election until March and list his name on the ballot among the candidates seeking to replace him.
Voters will make two decisions in the recall election: whether to remove Davis, and whom to choose as his successor if he is recalled. Under California election law, the subject of the recall cannot be on the list of replacement candidates.
Davis' allies are hoping the court can be convinced such an arrangement is unconstitutional.
Attorneys for the Democratic governor's campaign committee, Californians Against the Costly Recall (search), told reporters in a conference call Sunday that voters who want to retain Davis as governor would have their equal protection rights violated if he is not listed as a replacement candidate.
The attorneys also said the October date would disenfranchise voters because counties would not have enough time to prepare, would have to use outdated punch-card machines because new voting systems aren't ready, and would confuse or inconvenience voters by consolidating voting precincts to save money.
The pro-Davis forces want the election held March 2, the date of the state's presidential primary and the next regularly scheduled statewide election.
"We want the fairest possible election, and we want the most voters who can possibly have participation in the election to participate, and we want the preference of the voters to be vindicated," said Michael Kahn, one of three attorneys working on the suit.
Recall supporters said the claims in the suit had "zero validity."
"This is Davis stall tactics to the inevitable," said Phil Paule, director of Rescue California Recall Gray Davis (search), the committee that collected the bulk of the petition signatures to qualify the recall.
"The recall statute is very clear about the timing of recall elections after they've been certified," Paule said, adding: "If he is on the replacement list, that gives him an opportunity to lose twice in the same election."
In the latest sign of Democratic unease about Davis' chances in the recall, the Los Angeles Times reported that state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton planned to meet Monday with Senate Democrats to discuss backing a Democratic candidate to run as an alternative in case Davis loses.
Democratic lawmakers oppose the recall but asked for the meeting because they are "concerned that there is no fallback," Burton told the Times. Three Democratic members of Congress have called on Sen. Dianne Feinstein to run as an alternative. Feinstein has said she is flattered but declined further comment.
Davis attorneys said the suit will name Secretary of State Kevin Shelley and Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Conny McCormack. Shelley's spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment Sunday evening, and McCormack did not immediately respond to a message left at her office.
Unless the court acts this week, the Saturday deadline for candidates to file to get on the ballot would not be affected for now, attorneys said. They are asking the court to act by Aug. 31, the date ballot language would be finalized.
Counties reported 296 people taking out nominating papers so far, but none had completed the application process, the secretary of state's office said on its Web site.
Analysts from both parties believe the March date could be more favorable for Davis, as Democrats will likely turn out in large numbers to select their presidential nominee.
But Davis allies have had little success in court so far, failing to get qualification of the recall delayed over their claims that petition signatures were collected illegally.
There are already four other legal petitions related to the recall pending before the California Supreme Court: two to keep replacement candidates' names off the ballot, one to keep two unrelated propositions off the recall ballot and one over the rules governing how successor candidates get on the ballot.