Jewish World Review Sept. 2, 2003 / 5 Elul, 5763
Debra J. Saunders
The ACLU's punch-drunk lawsuit
The legal eagles in charge of the ACLU
obviously have decided to ditch the pretense that
they care about all Americans' civil rights. Only
schoolchildren and very naive ones at that believe
that pose anyway.
So the ACLU has set out to destroy an election in
order to save voting rights.
Joining with other left-leaning groups, the ACLU filed
suit to stall California's Oct. 7 recall election. The
ACLU brief argues that six counties
including Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego,
Santa Clara, Solano and Mendocino, representing 44
percent of voters use punch-card ballots. Because
those counties contain a higher-than-average
percentage of minorities, and because minorities
experience a higher level of voting irregularities with
punch-card systems than nonminorities, the recall
election would "discriminate against minority voters."
The ACLU's remedy: Stall the recall until March
2004, when all 58 counties are supposed to be
Or, as Team Davis apparently believes: Stall the
recall until March 2004, when support for the recall
should have run out of steam.
After U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson in Los
Angeles turned the ACLU down, the civil litigators
turned to the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco
(a.k.a. the infamous Ninth Circuit) to complete its
The Ninth is known for its blatant disregard for legal
niceties when it comes to decisions that grate
against the court's rarefied politics. But postponing
the election is bad for government whether you
support or oppose the recall.
The longer the recall election campaign lasts, the
longer uncertainty plagues state finances and keeps
the state from finding a fixed path.
Attorney Chuck Bell, who represents recall backers,
believes the ACLU suit is results oriented that is,
filed not for the principle, but to delay the recall
election for so long that it runs out of energy.
Paul Ryan of the good-government Center for
Intergovernmental Studies doesn't believe that the
ACLU is suing in a bald attempt to foil the recall. To
Ryan, the punch-card system is inadequate,
presenting the danger of a Florida-style recount
debacle if a tight race requires a recount.
Two problems: First (and this is a biggie), Gray Davis
was elected governor under this system, with major
counties using the punch-card ballots. If the old
system was so flawed and unfair, the ACLU should
have filed suit to stop the November 2002 election,
which Davis says he won "fair and square" with 47
percent of the vote.
Second, as Ryan admits, new techno-ballots could
have big problems, too.
The ACLU brief explains that it couldn't sue to stall
last November's election because a court victory
"would give rise to a full-fledged constitutional crisis."
Well, the same logic applies for a recall.
The ACLU brief also argues that the court could at
least let the recall go forward, but postpone a vote on
Proposition 54, the initiative that would prohibit the
state from gathering racial data, to protect voters of
color. In their dreams, the judges are going to rule
that punch cards discriminate in an election for a
ballot measure, but not the recall.
What's the rationale here? The ACLU argues
Proposition 54 is "racially charged."
Again, the ACLU doesn't even bother to hide its
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate