Per California Elections Code, the names of the candidates for certain offices must rotate on the ballot within the contest. Depending on the type of contest and size of the county, this name rotation is based on either supervisorial or assembly districts for the county, where the candidate listed on the top will then move to the bottom, and all other names remain within the random alphabet order. These rotations apply to offices elected throughout the state and/or county, such as President and Vice President, Governor or State Controller, Superior Court Judges, County Assessor, District Attorney, and Sheriff.
First, the random selection of letters performed by the Secretary of State is done according to Elections Code Section 13112. Next, the rotation of candidate names for offices listed above is then applied according to Elections Code Section 13111. The Secretary of State performs the rotation of names for federal and state offices according to the state’s assembly districts, starting with the First Assembly District or the assembly district that has the lowest number of all the assembly districts in which candidates are to be voted on.
If the county has up to four state assembly districts, the names of candidates seeking local office will rotate in each of the supervisorial districts in the county. If the county has five or more state assembly districts, the names will rotate by assembly district. Santa Clara County has five supervisorial districts and six state assembly districts (24, 25, 27, 28, 29 and 30). Candidates elected by voters throughout the county (countywide) will be rotated by assembly district. The official rotation commences with the district with the lowest number, and rotation applied to each subsequent district.
There is an exception to this rule. For the offices of the Justice of the California Supreme Court or a court of appeal, and to offices elected throughout a single district that does not encompass the whole county such as Board of Supervisor [elected by district], City Council or Mayor, School Board, and special district boards such as water or recreation district boards; the names of the candidates for these offices will not rotate.
The other exception is for the state assembly and senate districts that cross county borders. In this case, each county election official creates their own random alphabet to apply to these offices specifically, in the same manner as required by the Secretary of State. Candidate names for these offices will not rotate.
For more information about how candidate names are ordered and rotated, or not, for other offices such as United States Congress, and local offices such as county supervisor, school and special district offices and candidates seeking elective city offices, see Chapter 2 of Division 13 of the California Elections Code.