August 11: Dr. Barbara O'Connor of California State University Explains the Complicated Voting Process To Take Place on October 7

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, August 11, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: If you saw our earlier report on what California (search) is going through, just to figure out what letters come first, as it tries to determine which candidates appear in what order on that recall ballot. There you go. That's what the new California alphabet looks like and that's the orders.

You know that there's nothing about this election that is simple; and it is not just the procedures because there will be more to this election than the question of whether to replace the governor and with whom.

For more on all this, we're pleased to be joined now by Dr. Barbara O'Connor the Director of the Institute for The Study of Politics in the Media at California State University in Sacramento.

Welcome to you Doctor, thanks for coming.


HUME: What…first of all, where does this business about reshuffling the alphabet, where did that all come from and where…I've never heard of that before. What's that all about?

O'CONNOR: It's normal in California. We believe that a table of random numbers assigning the alphabet and varying it by district is really the fairest way to give each candidate an equal shot, because the research indicates that anywhere from 5 percent to 10 percent is placement on the ballot.

HUME: Really? That much?

O'CONNOR: Yes. That research has never been done. However, with 193 candidates, so, it might even be more than that.

HUME: Are we up to 193 officially now?

O'CONNOR: No, but that's what we're looking at. Probably 150.

HUME: Wow. So, what happens is that those…that table we just saw with all those re…all those juggled letters, in terms of what we think is the alphabet, will determine which letters will go first. And then if you have two people like…you got two people named…well, you have Simon and Schwarzenegger 11 down, how…it's different in each district as to who will go first within a given category of letter, is that right?

O'CONNOR: Yes. It's different in each district. And in the next district, that name rotates down to the bottom. So, everyone is given an equal chance…not really because there are so many candidates that even doing the math, if you're a U, you're in trouble. You'll never make it to the top.

HUME: Now does it appear that the ballot technology, the punch cards will be used in some places, the other technology will be used in other places, is going to be able to accommodate this many names?

O'CONNOR: Oh, I think it is going to be a nightmare. At least half the counties are pulling out their old punch card machines. Ours was in storage here in Sacramento and we're pulling it out. So that's half the counties some are doing optical scanners. Four of them are trying touch- screen technology. So you're going to have a wide diversity. In Orange County (search), they're using the paper absentee ballot and claiming that it will take them about 40 hours to count them. So, it is going to be a nightmare.

HUME: But if you are doing punch cards, you are going to need a whole set of punch cards, aren't you for half the single ballot?

O'CONNOR: Yes. Correct. Multiple card ballots and that is very difficult. As you know, when you go into a booth if you are carrying all these little ballots and trying to figure out which one to punch, it's a nightmare.

HUME: Now do you anticipate that there will be legal challenges to the way this election is run with different systems being used in different parts of the state?

O'CONNOR: Oh, I can't imagine that there won't be because the counties all pledged after Florida not to use the same technology. And they're doing it because they really haven't gotten the kinks out of the new stuff. Most of them have ordered it, but they haven't used it yet and they didn't want this to be the first time, October 7.

HUME: Now, there are questions on the ballot, two of them, ballot initiatives, which were due to come up in the next election, turns out to be this one, I take it. The second one of which is a race initiative. Describe that, if you would, and what affect you expect this will have on various groups in terms of this election.

O'CONNOR: Well, this is another in a series brought to us by Ward Connerly, who brought us Prop. 209 and has really tried to defeat any kind of remnants of affirmative action in California for years. And this one precludes any institution or business from gathering any race-based data.

So, the goal is, as he describes it, to create a color-blind society. So it would change the way we do business in the university, for example. But already there are all kinds of people coming out saying it is going to change a lot of what we do, in terms of medical research and trying to link diseases to race and ethnicity. It is very controversial.

HUME: All right. Now what kind of…pro and con, what kind of interest groups or what kind of constituencies are likely to be energized by this, and therefore, turn out for this election?

O'CONNOR: Well, the normal Democratic constituencies will mobilize against it. And already Cruz Bustamante, who is a candidate, has started to use that as a major stumping point, speaking in Spanish to the Latino community. So it's really going to be a racial divide. And then other institutional representatives, like the California Medical Association, has come out against it for this research issue that I talked about earlier.

HUME: But the history of these has been this business of counting by race and racial discrimination or preferences are tremendously unpopular with the public at large. Do you expect this to generate a large overall turn out in this election?

O'CONNOR: I don't think in and of itself it will. And polling data indicates that over 50 percent are favoring it right now. My fear is that there won't be any time to even discuss it because of the telescoped nature of the election.

HUME: Well, won't these groups, though, be doing the usual round of commercials and so forth between now and then to generate turnout and support for whichever position they hold?

O'CONNOR: I assume they will. But you have really basically a month, if you really don't start campaigning until after Labor Day, which is conventional wisdom. And you have got potentially 150 candidates trying to buy TV time. So, there's a point of saturation that I think the voter will reach... and you know, not many news entities are going to do a lot of talking about this.

HUME: Dr. O'Connor, thank you very much for being with us.

O'CONNOR: Oh, you're welcome.

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