Recall Ballot Order Set as Candidates Stump

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Candidates in California's Oct. 7 recall election were stumping from coast to coast Monday while back in the Golden State, election officials rewrote the alphabet as they set the order of the ballot.

In New York, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) spoke to a group of schoolchildren and told them of his commitment to after-school programs, but the "Terminator" star shed little light on any other plans he might have for California.

Organizers said Schwarzenegger's visit was planned long before he announced his intentions to run against California Gov. Gray Davis (search) last week. But coming just days after his announcement, the visit drew about two dozen television cameras.

"Look at all the press back there," Schwarzenegger told the children. "They're all here for you. ... They love after-school programs."

Shortly after Schwarzenegger spoke, California election officials randomly drew letters to determine the order of candidates on the recall ballot that could be choked with nearly 200 names for the special Oct. 7 election.

The first letter chosen was R, followed by W, Q and O.

The six-minute grab bag of letters seemed more like a lottery drawing than a routine process, which is done every election to help erase the estimated 5 percent advantage a candidate gets from being at the top of the ballot, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley said.

The letters H, B and S, were drawn as eighth, ninth and tenth, meaning that some high-profile candidates, commentator Arianna Huffington (search), Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (search) and Schwarzenegger will be relatively near each other on most ballots.

But as Shelley's office continues to certify finalists for the ballot, the precise order won't be known until late Wednesday when he certifies how many of the 195 candidates who submitted papers will make the official ballot. Shelley said Monday the office has qualified 96 candidates so far.

The lottery-style alphabetical system will rotate names on 80 different ballots in each of the state's Assembly districts. Under the system, candidates who start near the top in ballots used in northern California will shift to the bottom in southern California and work their way toward the middle, possibly for ballots in the 24 voter-rich Assembly districts of Los Angeles.

The long list of candidates could cause delays in vote counting and boost election costs, already estimated at up to $66 million. In addition, many counties will still be using the punch-card voting machines that California banned after the Florida recount debacle.

Such a large ballot means higher costs for the special election. In Contra Costa County, elections officials said the long candidate list could raise ballot costs by $750,000 over the county's earlier estimate of $1.6 million.

Shelley said he plans to ask the Legislature for help. The California State Association of Counties, noting the state has typically paid for special elections, also intends to seek legislative relief.

Elections officials also are concerned that several major counties are bringing back punch-card ballots retired earlier this year. Punch cards, being used in Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and San Bernardino Counties, are rife with reminders of hanging and pregnant chads from the 2000 presidential election in Florida.

Sonoma County Clerk Eeve Lewis said the long list of names will add at least two more ballot cards for voters to contend with and hours more election night work for her employees.

Earlier Monday, Davis said in a televised interview that the effort to recall him was an "insult" to voters.

"I don't like this but I am trying to suppress those negative feelings and channel my energies into doing something positive for the people I work for, the people of this great state," Davis said in a television interview.

Davis said he has "gotten the message. I understand a lot of people signed a recall." But he also called it "an insult to the 8 million people who went to the polls last November and decided I should be governor." (Of nearly 8 million people voting in California's election, Davis received around 3.5 million votes, Republican Bill Simon (search) got nearly 3.2 million, and the rest of the voters chose other candidates or left the gubernatorial part of the ballot blank.)

The governor also said former President Clinton had given him advice and he hoped that he and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton would campaign for him. "They're very well thought of in California," Davis said.

Elsewhere in California, a slew of candidates vying for the spotlight were out campaigning in the nation's first recall election in 82 years. The race has attracted as many as 193 candidates, including former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth (search).

Simon, the businessman who lost to Davis in the election last year, said he supported smaller government and better schools. He told a television network he was stressing ideas and was confident "that our people are once again going to rally around me." He also said he was more conservative on social issues than Schwarzenegger, a fellow Republican.

Bustamante stressed Monday he was against the recall but said as lieutenant governor, he was an obvious choice to become governor if Davis is removed. "I think I'm in the perfect position ... to take over if there's any kind of problem," he told a television network.

Candidates also include former child actor Gary Coleman (search), melon-smashing comedian Gallagher, smut peddler Larry Flynt (search) and the porn star known as Mary Carey.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.