Baltimore Sun

Number of hopefuls could complicate recall in California

The day after nearly 200 Californians filed for the right to be on the ballot to replace Gov. Gray Davis if he is recalled Oct. 7, officials warned yesterday that it might take days after the election to determine the outcome, particularly if it is close.

Election officers across the state continued yesterday to review candidates filing for the ballot, with 89 candidates confirmed as having fulfilled all requirements. Another 104 candidate filings are being reviewed.

After Saturday's furious pace, with well over 100 last-minute candidates filing statewide before the 5 p.m. deadline, yesterday seemed quieter, with few of the best-known candidates making campaign appearances .

But it was anything but calm in county election offices.

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 checked by hand to ensure each voter did not choose more than one alternative to Davis, election officials said.

While 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 and others plan to do so before the election.

Steve Weir, Contra Costa County's registrar of voters, said results in his county might not be ready until two days after the polls close.

In Orange County, where they will use a new oversize 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 problems posed by having so many names on the punch-card voting system the county is replacing.

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 percent 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.

At least one company with a contract to print ballots for the state is going to a round-the-clock operation to be ready in time for the election.

"We can get it done, but the more ballots and the more cards needed means more proofreading and printing," said Alfie Charles, public affairs director for Sequoia Voting Systems, of Exeter, Calif.

The large slate poses other problems as well. Estimates for the cost of the recall have grown as the number of candidates has risen. Last week, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley estimated the recall would cost between $53 million and $66 million. Yesterday, his office was working on a revised, higher estimate.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.