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Orange County

How Busy? Registrar Already Counting

Recall challenges include an expected high turnout, fewer polling places and a different voting system.

October 05, 2003|Stuart Pfeifer and Mike Anton | Times Staff Writers

The recall campaign isn't over, but some votes are already being counted.

In a warehouse at the Orange County registrar's office Saturday, dozens of workers and volunteers sliced open absentee ballots, checked signatures and fed them through scanners, hoping to get a jump on Tuesday's election. Meanwhile, hundreds of voters streamed in through the day to cast ballots early.

"Anything we can do to relieve pressure on the polling places on Tuesday is a good thing," said interim Registrar Steve Rodermund.

The recall election has presented a host of challenges for Rodermund's office.

First, election officials expect turnout near that of the November 2000 presidential election, in which 73% of the county's registered voters cast ballots.

Also, officials will count ballots with a system the county has never used before. Voters will cast ballots with pen and paper, marking small rectangles beside their choices. Those ballots will be counted by optical scanners.

Officials said they chose the pen-and-paper ballots because the recall election's condensed schedule left insufficient time to inform voters about a newly purchased electronic voting system. The pen-and-paper system will be accurate, Rodermund said, but counting the ballots will take longer. Officials don't expect to finish counting until midmorning Wednesday.

The abbreviated campaign also didn't allow enough time to set up as many polling places. Just 476 polling places will be open Tuesday, compared with more than 1,700 for the November 2002 election.

Voters can find their polling place address on their sample ballots, on the registrar Web site, www.oc.ca.gov/election, or by calling the registrar's office at (714) 567-7600.

"As long as everyone understands that we are doing this in a very constrained time frame, it will go pretty well," Rodermund said.

Officials got a head start by processing absentee ballots in the past several days. By Saturday, 208,000 absentee ballots had been received, and Rodermund said all that arrive through Monday morning will be included in the vote count Tuesday night.

Other voters drove to the registrar's Santa Ana office and cast ballots in person. The office, at Grand and McFadden avenues, was open for seven hours Saturday and will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today.

Oryden Gould, 52, of Orange voted in person Saturday but wouldn't say for whom.

"It's not just the governor -- all the politicians are responsible for the mess the budget's in," she said. "If I had my druthers, I'd impeach them all."

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