On the 82nd day before an election, the Secretary of State conducts a random drawing of letters of the alphabet pursuant to California Elections Code section 13112. The resulting order of letters constitutes the "randomized alphabet" to be used for determining the order of candidates' names on the ballot.
This alphabet applies throughout the candidate's name, last name first, followed, if necessary, by first name, then middle name. If more than one candidate's last name begins with the same letter, proceed to the second letter and, if needed, the third, etc., until different letters appear in the same position. If the second letter of the last name differs, the second letter of the last name determines who appears first on the ballot, according to where the second letter of the name appears in the randomized alphabet. If the second letters are the same, proceed to the third letter, and so on. For example, if two candidates with the last names Campbell and Carlson are running for the same office, their order on the ballot will depend on the order in which the letters "M" and "R" were drawn in the randomized alphabet drawing.
Names of candidates for offices voted on statewide rotate by Assembly district, starting with Assembly District 1 where the names appear as first determined by the randomized alphabet. In Assembly District 2, the candidate who appeared first in Assembly District 1 drops to the bottom and the other candidates move up one position and so on throughout the 80 districts. This gives each candidate more than one opportunity to appear at the "top of the ticket" in his/her race.
Congressional candidates follow the randomized alphabet and rotate within their districts with the lowest numbered Assembly district leading the rotation.
State Senate and Assembly candidates follow the randomized alphabet but do not rotate; however, if a legislative district crosses county lines, the elections officials of each county shall conduct a random drawing to determine candidate order for these offices in their county.
This procedure was established by legislation passed in 1975 in response to court rulings declaring that standard alphabetical order or incumbent-first was unconstitutional.