Name Order on Ballots, It Matters

Sample ballot TXGOP 2016

The primary election is on Tuesday in Texas and a researcher at Sam Houston State University says that ballot order can make a big difference for some candidates.

Professor Darren Grant researched the 24 statewide primary and primary runoff elections from 2014 and found that a candidate’s place on the ballot in a race can add or subtract from the number of votes they get.

Grant is a professor in the Department of Economics and International Business at SHSU.

“It’s called the ballot order effect,” Grant told KBTX3 in Bryan/College Station. “The bottom line is being listed first on the ballot can really help out.”

In Harris County (Houston), Texas, the candidates in local county races choose a ball from a hat in order to determine their place on the ballot in the county.

In statewide races in primary elections, ballot order is randomized within each county and each county chooses ballot order.

In Harris County, the statewide candidates who attended the ballot drawing pulled a ball out of a hat, Harris County Republican Party Chairman Paul Simpson told Breitbart Texas. Those candidates who were not in attendance had their ball drawn from a hat by a primary committee member.

KBTX3 reported that in Brazos County, the chairs of the Republican and Democrat parties select the order in which the names will appear on the ballot.

The SHSU professor said that selection of the ballot order may not be as random as it should be. “If ballot order is truly determined randomly then each candidate should show up first on the ballot about the same number of times,” Grant told KBTX3. He said that if one candidate has too much of an advantage on the ballot order issue, it can affect votes by as much as ten percent.

Grant was reported to have suggested that drawings for ballot order be open to the public in order to ensure a fair process.

The SHSU professor also said that the secretary of state will be collecting information for each county this year. Voters will have access to information about how ballot orders were determined in each county he said.

Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter@LanaShadwick2


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