It was a strange election at the outset.
Orange County Democrats, jolted by the victory in the Illinois Democratic primary of candidates who were disciples of political extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., discovered that another LaRouche follower, Art Hoffmann, was running unopposed for the Democratic nomination in Orange County's 40th Congressional District.
The chief of the Orange County Democratic Party, former judge and assemblyman Bruce Sumner, said Democrats could not permit such a candidate to represent them, and he entered the race himself as a write-in candidate.
After a vigorous campaign, the computer tally of votes in the south Orange County district showed that Sumner had won by 1,459 votes.
But odd things began happening.
Hand tallies of write-in votes made by poll workers showed that Sumner had about 2,000 fewer votes than the computer had counted.
Voters telephoned The Times to report that they had been denied a chance to cast a write-in vote by poll workers.
Then poll workers came forward to report they had been misled by county elections officials about write-in voting.
"I told voters that there could be no write-in votes because that's what I had been told by somebody else," said Delora E. Elling, a poll inspector at a Costa Mesa precinct. "I had never done this before. All I could think of (election) night was those write-ins."
But a more experienced poll worker reported much the same story.
Marjorie Williams had been a volunteer election worker for 12 years, many of them as an inspector, and had been a poll watcher for the League of California Women.
For the June 3 election, she was hired by the county to work at a precinct in Santa Ana.
She said that on the day before the election and twice on Election Day, she telephoned the registrar's office to report she had not received a list of people who had cast absentee ballots or a list of qualified write-in candidates.
She said she was told all three times not to worry because there were no absentee ballots in her precinct and no qualified write-in candidates.
So far, Registrar of Voters Al Olson has said he has been unable to locate anyone in his office who gave out such faulty information.
He said he considers the incidents "isolated" but added that he might call in the district attorney's office to make sure there was no election fraud involved.
Olson said he expects to certify the results of the election this week, clearing the way for Sumner to file for a recount.
Olson also said he would throw out any write-in votes if voters failed to punch holes next to the name.
David Paine, Sumner's campaign consultant, said that if Sumner doesn't prevail, "we'll have a look at legal remedies. It's possible we'll call for a special election and redo the whole thing."