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THE RECALL CAMPAIGN

Officials Warn of Turmoil on Election Night

The list of candidates gets longer and still has not been set. Worries arise about whether balloting equipment will be up to the test.

August 11, 2003|Allison Hoffman, Monte Morin and Megan Garvey | Times Staff Writers

As the list of candidates seeking to replace Gov. Gray Davis grew to nearly 200 names, officials warned Sunday of election night gridlock, with the outcome likely to be unclear days after the Oct. 7 vote.

Although the filing deadline passed Saturday at 5 p.m., the final number of candidates was not set on Sunday. Election officers throughout the state confirmed that 89 Californians had fulfilled all requirements and would appear on the ballot; the applications of at least 104 more were still being reviewed.

After Saturday's furious pace, Sunday seemed quieter, with few of the best-known candidates making campaign appearances. Among the day's developments:

* Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger released tax returns for 2000 and 2001, showing income of more than $57 million during the period.

* Another Republican candidate, state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), won the endorsement of the California Republican Assembly, a conservative group.

* Officials in Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's office said they were still trying to determine what the recall will cost. Last week, Shelley had estimated the price at $53 million to $66 million, a figure that may now rise in light of the large number of candidates on the ballot.

In some counties with paper-based voting systems, such as Contra Costa and Sonoma, the large number of candidates will require three or more cards, making it necessary for the ballots to be read by hand to ensure each voter did not choose more than one alternative to Davis, election officials said.

Unlike newer electronic systems, paper ballots must be marked by pen or punched out and then read by election officials or tabulated by machines ill equipped to handle dozens of candidates in a single race.

Though it is not clear how many counties will face this problem in October, 27 counties used multi-card ballots in the last statewide election. Since then, some have switched to different voting systems and others still plan to do so in the next 57 days.

Steve Weir, Contra Costa County's registrar of voters, said results in his county would not be ready until "maybe ... about 5 p.m. Thursday [Oct. 9]," two days after the polls close.

In Orange County, where voters will use a new oversized paper ballot -- designed for absentee voting -- officials said it may take close to 40 hours to count votes.

Although the new ballot was not intended to be used at the polling place, Registrar Steve Rodermund decided it was preferable to substantial problems posed by having so many names on the punch-card voting system the county is replacing.

"The only issue with using this [new absentee] ballot is that it's not designed to count a few hundred thousand ballots in eight hours," Rodermund said. "So it'll take a little bit longer, but we'll know the numbers will be right."

On the ballot, voters first will be asked for a straight yes or no answer on whether Davis should retain his office. They then will be asked to vote for a successor in the event Davis receives less than 50% of the vote on the first question. If Davis loses the recall, whoever gets the most votes on the second question becomes the governor of California, a state with 36 million people and a $99-billion budget.

On Sunday morning, Schwarzenegger's campaign staff wheeled in copies of two years of the actor-turned-politician's tax returns on a brass luggage cart at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica.

Releasing only 2000 and 2001 tax returns, aides told reporters they were welcome to spend as long as they liked looking at the documents but could not remove them from the basement conference room.

The returns showed Schwarzenegger earning $31 million in 2000 and $26.1 million in 2001, paying more than $20 million in state and federal taxes, with the bulk of his income coming from his acting roles.

Campaign spokesmen said they did not release a 2002 return because it had not been filed yet.

Rivals had called on Schwarzenegger to release 10 years of tax returns. A similar issue caused problems for multimillionaire businessman Bill Simon Jr. during his 2002 run for governor against Davis. After pressure, he eventually released a decade's worth of tax filings.

Gov. Davis' wife, Sharon, said at an afternoon anti-recall rally that she expects her husband's fight against the recall to get the support of former President Clinton and his wife, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

"We look forward to having Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton in California because they have been through this Republican attack," she said in an interview after speaking in West Los Angeles at an event organized by Women Against the Recall, a statewide coalition of women's groups. "They have experienced it firsthand."

Sharon Davis touted her husband's signing of the nation's first paid family leave bill, his raising of the minimum wage and his efforts to provide affordable day care as among his accomplishments for the state.

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