In an election that threatens to rewrite politics and reduce the term in office of Gov. Gray Davis (search), the lesson of the day Monday was that the alphabet begins with the letter "R" — as in "recall."

State election officials randomly drew letters to determine the order of candidates on the recall ballot that could be choked with nearly 200 names for the special Oct. 7 election.

The first letter chosen was R, followed by W, Q and O.

The six-minute grab bag of letters seemed more like a lottery drawing than a routine process, which is done every election to help erase the estimated 5 percent advantage a candidate gets from being at the top of the ballot, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley said.

The letters H, B and S, were drawn as eighth, ninth and tenth, meaning that some high-profile candidates, commentator Arianna Huffington (search), Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (search) and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) will be relatively near each other on most ballots.

But as Shelley's office continues to certify finalists for the ballot, the precise order won't be known until late Wednesday when Shelley certifies how many of the 195 candidates who submitted papers will make the official ballot.

Shelley said Monday the office has qualified 96 candidates and is reviewing the paperwork submitted by 99 more.

The lottery-style alphabetical system will rotate names on 80 different ballots in each of the state's Assembly districts. Under the system, candidates who start near the top in ballots used in northern California will shift to the bottom in southern California and work their way toward the middle, possibly for ballots in the 24 voter-rich Assembly districts of Los Angeles.

The huge list of candidates includes a variety of prominent candidates and celebrities, as well as dozens of ordinary Californians from a school teacher to a bail bondsman who paid $3,500 and collected 65 signatures to get on the ballot.

Such a large ballot means higher costs for the special election, now estimated at up to $66 million. Contra Costa County elections officials said the long candidate list could raise ballot costs by $750,000 over the county's earlier estimate of $1.6 million.