California Recall Election
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SPENCER MICHELS: Lines had already formed at 7:00 this morning when the polls opened. A few glitches were reported, but voting mostly went smoothly. More than 15 million Californians are registered to vote for or against Gray Davis as governor.
Three million absentee ballots have been requested, and polling indicates absentee voters favor the recall by six-eight points. Davis, often blamed for economic and energy problems, cast his ballot in Los Angeles. The embattled governor has fought an uphill battle against low approval ratings and against 135 candidates who want to replace him. If he loses, he will be only the second governor in the U.S. to be recalled.
GOV. GRAY DAVIS: Since there are more Democrats in this state, a higher turnout obviously will be helpful to me. I would ask everyone to make the extra effort to find your polling place, go out and participate in this democracy.
SPENCER MICHELS: At a mansion in Pacific Palisades, Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with his wife, Maria Shriver, had to identify themselves.
SPOKESPERSON: I hate to be rude. Your name, please?
MARIA SHRIVER: Maria Shriver.
SPENCER MICHELS: The Republican actor has been leading in the polls in the race to replace Davis, but recent allegations of sexual harassment have cast a shadow on his campaign. A total of $58 million has been spent by all the candidates, but today it boiled down to votes.
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I feel very good.
SPOKESPERSON: Will it be close? Will it be close?
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: We don’t know. It is up to the God now. It’s up to God. What the decision is. We did all the work and we worked hard and campaigned hard and tried to get the message out there.
SPENCER MICHELS: Schwarzenegger’s more conservative Republican rival, state Senator Tom McClintock, showed up at 8:30 in Newbury Park, Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles. He’s been getting less than 15 percent in polls.
STATE SEN. TOM McCLINTOCK: Well, my message is very simply vote your conscience. According to every poll by a large margin people believe I would be the best qualified governor and now we just need them to vote that way.
SPENCER MICHELS: And in elk grove, near Sacramento, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante cast his vote. He’s the only big-name Democrat in the race, but his poll numbers have faded recently in an election some critics have called a circus.
LT. GOV. CRUZ BUSTAMANTE: Obviously by the media presence today, there’s going to be another day of saturation and hopefully we’ll be able to get another group of folks to come out and vote because in the end this is a real serious issue. It’s a very serious vote.
SPENCER MICHELS: Three kinds of voting machines are being used statewide. There had been fears of some malfunctions, especially with punch cards, but so far, no major problems have been reported. Of the state’s 20,000 usual polling places, only 15,000 are being used, which could cause delays. Secretary of State Kevin Shelley refuses to predict turnout, but he has said as many or more Californians will probably vote as voted in 2002, and that was 51 percent. He also says it could take as long as 39 days to certify what could be a very close election, especially with the large number of absentee ballots. If Davis loses, a new governor would be installed immediately after the certification.