Meg Whitman wasn't among them.
The billionaire businesswoman now running for governor herself in 2010 didn't vote in that special election, even after Business Week listed her among a group of top executives with "worse than spotty voting records" in a 2000 magazine story, public records show.
Whitman apologized for failing to vote "on several occasions" as she introduced herself earlier this year as a candidate to replace Schwarzenegger as governor at a state Republican Party convention in Sacramento. She said her failure to vote was a mistake for which she had no excuses.
"Every citizen should take time to vote, and on more than one occasion, I didn't," the former eBay chief told the GOP activists. "Voting is a precious gift handed down by generations of Americans. I regret not having delivered my vote on several occasions."
In fact, however, a Bee review found Whitman regularly skipped elections in California and several other states where she lived and worked.
The review covered six states and a dozen counties, including towns and counties in Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Rhode Island and California where public records indicated that Whitman lived, worked or attended college.
Mark Petracca, a UC Irvine political science professor, said Whitman's voting record is nothing anyone would brag about ? unless you're one of her opponents.
The Bee found that the two candidates battling Whitman for the Republican gubernatorial nomination ? Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and ex-congressman and state Sen. Tom Campbell ? regularly participated in local, state and federal elections for decades.
"It's a dereliction of our first duty as American citizens," Petracca said. "We're talking about someone who has practically not voted her entire adulthood.
"This is embarrassing."
Whitman, now 53, turned 18 and voting age in Suffolk County, N.Y., in 1974. Officials say they have no record of her registering or voting there.
Neither Ohio state elections officials nor Hamilton County Board of Elections officials found a record of Whitman registering or voting there.
For much of the 1980s, she lived in San Francisco as a management consultant at an investment firm, Bain & Co.
The San Francisco County elections office no longer retains records prior to 1992, but said that had she been registered and voting, her registration information would have been transferred to the current system. They have no record of her registration.
Similarly, Los Angeles County has no record that she registered or voted between 1989 and 1992, when she worked for Walt Disney Corp. as a senior executive.
Whitman and her husband, Griffith Harsh, a neurologist, lived in Brookline, Mass., a suburb just outside Boston, for several years in the 1990s. She worked for Stride-Rite, FTD and Hasbro until 1997.
"We had her as a resident for a while, and she was captured by the census, but she was never registered and she never voted," said Patrick Ard, town clerk in Brookline.
Whitman returned to the Bay Area in 1998, when she was hired to be eBay's first chief executive officer and take the company public.
She told delegates at the convention that she had "been a registered 'decline-to-state' voter since 1998." The Bee was unable to find any public record of that registration.
The first registration record The Bee found, in San Mateo County, was dated Sept. 12, 2002.
At that time, she told San Mateo elections officials that she had been registered in San Francisco County, a county official said, after reviewing electronic records.
Yet San Francisco County officials, whose database records active registrations as far back as 1992, said they had no record of voter registration for Whitman at either of her two San Francisco addresses during the period.