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Recall alphabet: Do you know your RWQs?

State election officials conduct a drawing to determine the alphabetical order of gubernatorial candidates on the October 7 ballot.
State election officials conduct a drawing to determine the alphabetical order of gubernatorial candidates on the October 7 ballot.

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SACRAMENTO, California (CNN) -- Just when you thought the California recall election process could not get any more confusing, state election officials introduced a new order for the English alphabet Monday, which will determine the order names appear on the ballot.

For the purposes of the October 7 vote, the alphabet begins with the letters R, W and Q.

"S," as in apparent frontrunner Arnold Schwarzenegger, is the 11th letter, moving up from 19th in the standard alphabet.

The "randomized alphabet" is a process the state follows for all elections, with the goal of ensuring fairness in the placement of candidates' names.

But elections generally don't have 195 candidates -- the number California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley said have applied to be on the recall ballot. Among them, 96 have qualified and 99 are still under review.

By Wednesday, Shelley must hand over to county election officials a certified list of all candidates. To qualify for the ballot, candidates must pay a $3,500 filing fee and hand in the signatures of 65 registered voters.

It could all be for naught, however, if California voters buck a poll that shows 64 percent saying they will vote to recall Gov. Gray Davis, the first choice on a two-part ballot. The second part, of course, is to pick one of the many candidates to replace him, a logistical nightmare for elections officials and a brain teaser for voters.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Bill Simon -- who lost to Davis eight months ago in the general election -- will be on the ballot alongside Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, former child actor Gary Coleman and former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth.

If the recall succeeds, the candidate with the most votes -- no majority is necessary -- will take over as governor immediately and serve the remaining three years of Davis' term.

On Monday, in a moment resembling a state lottery, a state official blindly pulled letters out of a revolving canister to determine the order of the recall alphabet.

Under the California election process, here's how the voting will work: The candidates' names will be alphabetized based on the alphabet that was selected Monday, with the candidates' second and following letters being looked at according to the same list if needed to determine the order within each group of initial letters.

Officials will then make 80 different lists -- one for each of the state's voting districts -- by moving each name on top of one list to the bottom of the next.

Not all candidates will see their name at the top of a list, however, since there are more than 80 candidates.

The new alphabet means plenty of confusion for voters who come to the polls. Short of memorizing the recall alphabet, they'll have to scroll through the entire list of names carefully to find the name they're looking for.

Though the recall alphabet doesn't have its own song to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," it will have its moment in the sun, when millions of Californians turn out in October for one of the strangest elections in state history.

The recall alphabet: R, W, Q, O, J, M, V, A, H, B, S, G, Z, X, N, T, C, I, E, K, U, P, D, Y, F, L.


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