Voters elect total recall for Davis:

Action star terminates governor



Campus Times
October 10, 2003

 

by Kenneth Todd Ruiz
Managing Editor

After six-weeks of blowout campaigning and record spending, California's historic gubernatorial recall effort culminated Tuesday as voters turned out en force to recall recently elected Gov. Gray Davis and replace him with action-movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Concerns over the long, confusing ballots for the special election did not prevent almost 8 million voters from bursting a chad either in opposition or favor of recalling Davis.

Although final results await the inclusion of remaining absentee ballots and certification by Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, more than 55 percent decided to pull the plug on Davis' leadership.

"It's time for a change," said Art Kessler of La Verne, who along with his wife Kathy voted to replace Davis with Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

Despite allegations of sexual harassment and offensive behavior toward women that came out just days before the election, Schwarzenegger emerged mostly untarnished to win 48.7 percent of votes cast for a replacement governor.

Although he did not win a majority of votes, only a plurality was needed in this special recall election.

The star of the "Terminator" series of movies ended up more than a million votes ahead of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who led the Democratic fallback plan and received 31.7 percent.

Strong voter turnout, estimated to be around 60 percent, landed squarely between the 51 percent of last November's gubernatorial election and the 71 percent who showed up for the last presidential election.

"The turnout is three times what we usually have," said Phyllis Eller, a volunteer poll worker from La Verne. Eller said steady crowds of voters passed through all day Tuesday.

"It is wonderful to see a line at the polls," said La Verne voter Priscilla Norton.

Many polling stations, such as La Verne's Veterans Hall on Bonita Avenue, reported larger than usual crowds, but this had more to do with the fact that 10,000 fewer polling places were open statewide; after consolidation, the total was down to 15,235 precincts.

According to exit interviews at the Veterans Hall Tuesday evening, La Verne's voting habits were as diverse as its population.

Around half of those surveyed came out to support the recall effort and Schwarzenegger, while the other half were split in their support of the recall and other candidates.

Some voters opposed to the recall stuck to the original Davis strategy of not choosing any backup candidate.

"We voted 'no' on everything," said Joe and Inez Quintana of La Verne.

Most of those voting against the recall however, such as Esther and Efrain Nuñez of La Verne, supported Bustamante.

"I don't believe in the recall," said Esther Nuñez.

Tagged onto the ballot were two measures, Propositions 53 and 54, both of which failed to muster support.

La Verne voters said Proposition 53, which sought road improvement funds, did not make sense with the current fiscal crisis.

People of all colors united to defeat Proposition 54, which claimed to promote a color-blind future by banning the collection of voluntary racial medical statistics.

The special election, which will set the cash-strapped state back another $66 million, proceeded without major difficulty, even with long ballots containing all 135 candidates.

"It is ridiculous," Michael Norton said of the ballot. "Eight pages for governor alone."

According to most voters polled in La Verne, they had little difficulty because they prepared with sample ballots in advance.

One day after the election, the American Civil Liberties Union, which fought in the courts to delay the election, released an analysis showing that the state's largest counties using punch card ballots might have lost 176,000 votes.

"We remind them to check for chads," said Eller. "Some have said, 'Oh, I'm glad you reminded me.'"

According to Eller however, there were still issues with the contentious chads, made infamous in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

"One lady came out and said 'How come I've punched it four times, and I only see three holes?'" Eller said.

Some La Verne voters had trouble finding the portion of the ballot where they could vote "yes" or "no" on the recall.

"I was careful, read over it three times," said La Verne resident Jeff Dye. "I couldn't find the actual place to vote on the recall."

Sample ballots in the lobby at the Veterans Hall were available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean. The ballot itself was available in multiple languages.

While a master index of who has voted is maintained inside the polling station, staff usually update a copy in the lobby.

Eller said staff were too busy to keep the secondary index updated, which residents have used in the past to check who has voted.

"They can look up their neighbor and remind them to vote," Eller said.

By 5:30 p.m., the local polling station was still crowded with more than 30 people, as wave after wave of voters swept in to cast their ballots.

Following the two lead candidates were the four other major candidates, including independent Arianna Huffington and Republican Peter Ueberroth, whose names appeared on the ballots despite their withdrawal from the race.

Almost 30,000 people voted for two not-so-serious candidates, as Hustler Magazine publisher Larry Flynt and former child-star Gary Coleman placed seventh and eighth.

On a local note, University of La Verne College of Law graduate Vipan Bhola took the 102nd spot among the 135 candidates, receiving 507 votes.

In 13 months, California will claim 55 of the 538 Electoral College votes in the 2004 presidential election. How Tuesday's results reflect on that is uncertain, but for now, voters seem to have rediscovered the spirit of anti-government anger that was strong in the mid-1990s.

"This will show any politician that they too can be recalled," Jeff Casas said.