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Election Ballots Drawn For Order

Publication Date: 
March 03, 2010
Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Megan Luther

Professor Daniel Ho, an expert on election law, is quoted on the effect of ballot name placement on an election's outcome. Megan Luther of the Argus Leader reports:

Candidate names were drawn Tuesday to determine the order in which they will appear on the ballot, with mayoral candidate Bill Peterson winning the coveted top position.

"It's my lucky day," Peterson said, adding, "I believe in hard work more than good luck."

The luck of the draw has its advantages. Political scientists have been studying name placement on ballots for decades with the conclusion that the top spot holds a slight advantage.

Stanford Law School Professor Daniel Ho studied California elections for 30 years and found that the first name listed in statewide races had a 2 percentage point advantage.

"In nonpartisan races there are an appreciable effect in general races," he said.


Government officials can decrease the "ballot effect" by having more randomization, Ho said. Some states with electronic voting machines have a randomly chosen order for each voter.