Federal Judge to Rule This Week on Bid to Delay Calif. Recall

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A federal judge said Monday he will rule by midweek on an effort to postpone California's Oct. 7 election to recall Gov. Gray Davis (search) because some counties will use old punch-card voting machines (search).

Also Monday, the campaign of Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) said the actor would discuss his economic policies Wednesday and release the first television advertisements of the recall campaign.

Schwarzenegger has largely kept out of public view since announcing his candidacy almost two weeks ago and has been criticized for not offering specific policy positions.

He will meet Wednesday with his Economic Recovery Council co-chaired by billionaire investor Warren Buffett (search) and former Secretary of State George Shultz, said Rob Stutzman, Schwarzenegger's spokesman.

On the same day, the Republican actor is set to begin airing ads for the Oct. 7 election, television station officials said. No candidate has aired TV ads so far in the campaign to recall Davis, a Democrat.

Two television stations in the San Francisco Bay area confirmed that the actor, who is running as a Republican, planned to run ads during the week.

Schwarzenegger is one of 135 candidates who qualified as possible replacements to Davis if he is recalled on the Oct. 7 ballot.

Davis, whose approval ratings continue to fall, is the first California governor to face a recall election.

Davis had hoped to keep Democrats focused exclusively on opposition of the recall ballot and ignoring the second question facing voters Oct. 7, which is who would replace him.

On Monday, rifts grew among Democrats, some of whom want to encourage voters to say no to the recall, but vote for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamente if that strategy fails.

The influential Latino Legislative Caucus -- which includes 15 members of the state Assembly and nine state senators -- voted unanimously against recall but in support of Bustamante, the state's highest-ranking Hispanic official and the foremost Democrat in the race.

"If the recall does pass, we feel strongly that Cruz is the individual on the ballot who will represent our interests and the interests of all Californians," said Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza.

Hispanics make up about a third of the state's 35 million residents and 14 percent of voters.

Voter anger has been building since the state's 2000-2001 energy crisis. Since then, Californians have witnessed the decline of the state's technology sector and a record $38 billion budget deficit, which triggered the vehicle tax increase, forced college fees to rise as much as 30 percent and has threatened state employees with layoffs and pay cuts.

But the date of the election has been challenged repeatedly. Most recently, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California says voters in six counties would still be using the error-prone ballots if the recall is staged on Oct. 7.

The suit claims the machines have error rates as high as 3 percent and seeks a delay until the next regular election in March, when touch-screen or written ballots will be in place as part of separate litigation arising from the Bush-Gore voting debacle in Florida in 2000.

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson said he hoped to rule on the case Wednesday, while acknowledging that there was no earlier case in which a federal court had intervened to stop or delay a state election.

Doug Woods of the state attorney general's office, representing the secretary of state, argued that the ACLU was speculating what may happen on Oct. 7 as far as error rates or other problems with the punch-card machines.

Woods said that the speculation does not outweigh the public interest in having the election go forward.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose ordered Monterey County not to send absentee ballots overseas as he also considers postponing the election.

Fogel said issues raised by two civil rights groups need to be sorted out to make sure minorities are not disenfranchised as election clerks save money by opening fewer polling places and hiring fewer Spanish-speaking poll workers.

Fogel was expected to rule on that case by Aug. 29.

In Monterey and three other counties with perennially low turnout by Hispanics, changes in election procedures need federal clearance.