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High Turnout Expected in California Recall Election


California election officials expect a high turnout for Tuesday's recall vote against Governor Gray Davis. The candidates traded last-minute charges Monday, as election officials prepared for a busy day.

Governor Davis reminded voters of allegations of sexual harassment made by 15 women against his chief challenger, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "Are 15 women and their families lying, or is Mr. Schwarzenegger not telling us the truth?," he said.

Mr. Schwarzenegger was reminding voters of the sad state of California's economy. "Let me tell you something, I'm an optimistic person. I know that we can bring this state back again. I know that the best days are not over," he said.

California election official Kevin Shelley says heavy requests for absentee ballots show high voter interest in this special election.

"There have already been more than two million Californians who have voted by absentee, another million Californians who have absentee ballots still outstanding. So we anticipate a very large turnout," he said.

At the Los Angeles county registrar's office, workers sort absentee ballots that will be counted Tuesday evening, after the polls are closed. L.A. county is one of six that uses old punch-card voting machines, like those that delayed the count in Florida in the last presidential election.

Los Angeles county worker Vern Cowles tested the ballot-counting machines, which he said read about 800-1,000 cards a minute. He says they're in good working order. "We can get about 600,000 ballots an hour through here when everything is in full swing," he said.

Kristin Heffron, chief deputy to the Los Angeles registrar of voters, anticipates few problems, because California has uniform standards for counting damaged ballots, which Florida did not. But she says lawsuits are possible. "The worst fear is possible litigation after the election that would halt or interfere with our completion of the process," he said.

A recent poll suggests the gap between the governor and his chief rival is narrowing.

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