Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Spelling the California Board of Elections Way

In the name of ‘fairness,’ names listed on the ballot for the California gubernatorial recall election will be listed alphabetically, using a randomly selected cipher system that dates back to Caesar (see my article from 30May03 for more gory details). The results? Well, where you would expect “Peters, Reynolds, Schwarzenegger” you instead get “Reynolds, Schwarzenegger, Peters” and so on.

If that’s not confusing enough, they’re going to rotate this cipher based upon the ordinal number representing your district. That is, where ‘r’ is 1, then in district 6 ‘w’ is 7 … the last 5 letters get pushed to the front so “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” becomes “p d y f l r w q o j m v a h b s g z x n t c i e k u” in which case “Peters, Reynolds, Schwarzenegger” no longer becomes “Reynolds, Schwarzenegger, Peters” but instead becomes “Peters, Reynolds, Schwarzenegger.”

Yeah, and here I thought I was getting a headache the other day from singing the “A-B-C’s” song to my 3.5 year old daughter … backwards.

Anyway, in honor of a system that is certain to entangle the election results in an endless stream of litigation that is going to make the 2000 Presidential election look like a day in traffic court (not that I’ve had any fun there in the past … but I digress) I decided it might be fun to whip up a little Javascript so you too can send secret messages to your cell group based upon the alphabet the California Board of Elections has established for sorting last names. Just keep in mind, in my example, all 80 districts are equal to 1. Think of it as a fairness thing.


0 ? sKeys[(!bDecrypt + 0)].charAt(x) : c) ;
return sOutput;

Encrypt English using the California Recount Cipher
  Encrypt Decrypt

Oh, and for the 9% of you who are Javascript impaired, below is some easy cut-n-paste code you can use in Perl and/or PHP to get the same results:

$s = “Dihkj hx Vgjxx Ijfxngoe mni kaj Qrghmnixhr ijqnuxk!”;
$s =~ tr/a-zA-Z/rwqojmvahbsgzxntciekupdyflRWQOJMVAHBSGZXNTCIEKUPDYFL/;
strtr($s,”abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ”, “rwqojmvahbsgzxntciekupdyflRWQOJMVAHBSGZXNTCIEKUPDYFL”);

print “$s\n”;

For the three of you who didn’t get a migraine from reading this post, here are three more articles on the topic you might find a bit more informative … though nearly not as snarky and fun:

  • NYTimes – How to Run a Recall Election: Begin by Juggling the Alphabet
  • Contra Costa Times – Alphabet soup: The ABC’s (or RWQ’s) of recall
  • Mercury News – ‘R’ gets top position on recall ballot


  1. Dean, you are the greatest. :) Thanks so much for healyourchurchwebsite.com!

  2. I just had a discussion with a social worker who leads an early-stage Alzheimer’s disease support group.

    As someone who was diagnosed with presumed early-stage Alzheimer’s disease I brought to her attention the bizarre way gubernatorial candidates would be listed in California’s recall and I told her how people in my situation would be disenfranchised from voting because it would be too difficult to locate the candidate of our choice.

    Perhaps the local Alzheimer’s association could bring this to the attention of the California Board of Elections.

  3. i head to the center of the silliness tomorrow…