Guess how many people are running for governor? The answer is 17 -- three or four whose names you may recognize.

And you will be able to vote for any one of them June 2 whether they are Democrat, Republican, Green, American Independent or whatever.

Welcome to the new, wild West version of the American primary. For the first time you can vote for a candidate from any party no matter what your own party affiliation.

"These ballots are going to cause some trouble," warned Lindsey McWilliams, Humboldt County registrar of voters. "First of all, the ballot's three feet long -- 18 inches on each side."

In addition to the governor's race, there are those for U.S. Senate and Congress, and numerous other partisan state offices.

Many of the races have multiple candidates from each party. One exception is the state Assembly race.

Voters may think they are choosing between incumbent Virginia Strom-Martin, D-Duncan Mills; Pamela Elizondo, a Laytonville resident running on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket and Sam Crump, Sebastopol, for the Republicans. But since each party has only one candidate, all will advance to the November election when the votes will really count.

Confused yet?

McWilliams said he is really worried about potential "voter falloff," meaning some voters will wear themselves out making choices -- some of which are irrelevant -- on the front of the ballot and will not bother to flip it over to vote for the local nonpartisan races and initiatives on the back.

Yet it's the nonpartisan races that could be decisive. If a candidate garners 50 percent of the vote plus one for Superior Court judge, for instance, or for 4th or 5th District supervisor, they are automatically elected.

Then there is the county wide Measure A -- a proposal for a quarter-cent sales tax hike to fund library operations -- that must have a two-thirds approval to pass.

"I am advising people to evaluate the candidates and ballot measures ahead of time and do the best they can" with the lengthy ballot come Election Day, McWilliams said.

Better yet, voters can receive an absentee ballot by calling 445-7678 by May 26. Or they can wander into the county Elections Office at Harris and H streets in Eureka and vote absentee up until the day of the election.

Voters may be surprised to see the name of Rep. Frank Riggs, R-Windsor, still on the ballot. Riggs had opted not to run again for Congress so he could try for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. However, last month he dropped out of that race due to lack of funds.

The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa reported that Riggs' Senate campaign raised just $60,323 during his 53-day try for higher office.

Riggs was challenging San Diego businessman Darrell Issa, who raised $4.2 million -- mostly from his own personal finances -- and state Treasurer Matt Fong, who raised $832,000 during the first quarter.

Incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer, the lone Democrat, raised $1.5 million during the same period to add to $3.1 million already in the bank for her re-election bid.

Voters may also be confused by the random order in which the candidates are listed on the ballot. The secretary of state assigns a ballot position based on a random alphabet-generating program which is then rotated by county.

In Humboldt County, Republican Dan Lungren tops the governor's list, Dan Hamburg, now a Green Party member, is at the bottom, and Democrats Al Checchi and Gray Davis are in the middle.

For the U.S. Senate, Republican Linh Dao tops the list of 13 candidates.

In the local races, judge and sheriff candidate names rotate by supervisorial district but in the races for county supervisor the incumbent is listed first, followed -- in alphabetical order -- by the challengers.

Got it? Ready, set, vote.



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