WASHINGTON (UPI) — Voters in California are already being subjected to a confusing array of mixed messages prior to the Oct. 7 gubernatorial recall election. Things may only get worse.

There is still a doubt the election will occur as scheduled. A number of groups and individuals from incumbent Gov. Gray Davis on down have argued for moving the election to March 4, the date of the presidential primary. Several have, and with little success thus far, challenged the October date in court.

On Monday the U.S. Department of Justice “pre-cleared” the October date in response to a threat from U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, a Clinton appointee, to order a postponement.

Under the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its subsequent amendments, changes in election districts and procedures in states and counties named within the act, including parts of California, must receive Justice Department pre-clearance before an election can be held.

Fogel threatened to issue a postponement order if state election officials did not receive Justice Department approval by Aug. 29.

In another case, the American Civil Liberties Union seeks a new date for the election by arguing the scheduled date requires the use of punch card voting machines. These machines produce the now infamous hanging chads and, the ACLU argues, disenfranchise poor and minority voters. U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson, a Reagan appointee, has promised to rule on this question before the end of August.

Other challenges remain and others are almost certainly in the wings. Time and process are on the side of the recall

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