In a display that looked more like a Las Vegas lottery game, election officials held a drawing to determine where Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger and nearly 200 other candidates seeking to replace California’s governor will appear on the October 7 recall ballot.
Under the spotlight of television cameras carrying the event live yesterday, officials put printed letters into film canisters, then placed the canisters into a gold steel-mesh barrel before pulling the letters out one by one.
The drawing is done every election to help erase the estimated 5% advantage a candidate gets from being at the top of the ballot, said Secretary of State Kevin Shelley.
But this is no ordinary election. Officials say 195 people have submitted papers to run as a replacement to Democratic Governor Gray Davis, whose approval ratings have fallen to record lows amid a 38 billion budget deficit and voter wrath over the state’s energy crisis.
California voters are to decide on October 7 if they want to recall Davis - and whom they want as replacement.
If the recall campaign succeeds, Davis would be only the United States’ second governor to be recalled the other was North Dakota’s Lynn Frazier, ousted in 1921.
The precise order on the recall ballot will not be known until late Wednesday, when Shelley certifies how many of the candidates will make the official ballot. Shelley said the office has qualified 96 candidates so far.
Under the system, names will be rotated on 80 different ballots in each of the state’s Assembly districts. Candidates who start near the top in ballots used in northern California will shift to the bottom in southern California.
Based on the order of letters drawn yesterday, some high-profile candidates - Schwarzenegger, commentator Arianna Huffington and Lt Gov Cruz Bustamante – will be relatively near each other on most ballots.
Davis said in an interview that the effort to recall him was an insult to those who voted last year.
“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,” he said on NBC television.
In New York, Schwarzenegger appeared at a gathering related to his effort to foster after-school programs, joking to the crowd that the large number of journalists present were “all there for you”.
Schwarzenegger, who has avoided detailed interviews in California since launching his bid, did not take questions after his remarks.
Other candidates include former child actor Gary Coleman, melon-smashing comedian Gallagher and porn publisher Larry Flynt.