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CA: Tuesday Prize Fight Could Go Into Wed.


A civilized start to voting at the California Museum of History, Women and The Arts. But when will it end? (AP).

By Robert Barnes
California's most famous politically incompatible couple -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (McCain) and first lady Maria Shriver (Obama) -- voted early this morning, two of what is estimated to be a record 8.9 million Californians participating in today's primary.

The Golden State, which often holds its primary too late in the process to command a starring role, is the biggest prize of Super Tuesday. But it will likely be Bleary-Eyed Wednesday before it becomes clear who won.

There are several reasons elections officials are warning that all-nighters are likely required in the state's largest counties. For one thing, they expect about 2.2 million more people to participate in today's vote than came out for the 2004 presidential primary. About half of the total vote will come by absentee ballot, an easy voting technique that has been widely embraced in the state. More than 5.7 million voters requested such a ballot.

Some of those ballots already have been filed, and they will be the first to be counted tonight. But voters have until the polls close at 8 p.m. PST to drop off their votes. Those coming in today must be sorted by hand, verified by a signature comparison and then turned over for counting.

In addition, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, concerned about the accuracy of some electronic voting machines, ordered 20 counties to return to using paper ballots. One of the largest is San Diego County, which Republicans will be watching closely for clues about whether former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is making inroads in the state by questioning Sen. John McCain's conservative credentials.

Ballots from 1,650 polling places will be trucked to a central location, where they will be fed one by one into machines to be counted. Final results may not be available there until 8 a.m. Wednesday -- Pacific Standard Time.

By Washington Post editors  |  February 5, 2008; 2:42 PM ET
 
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