What’s in a name? Apparently some advantage, according to a bill under consideration at the state Legislature. House Bill 32 would change state law dictating the way candidates’ names are placed on election ballots. They currently are listed alphabetically (with a rare exception; more on that later), but the bill would change that. The new method would have the state’s chief election officer select a letter of the alphabet by lot, and candidates with last names beginning with that letter would be listed first, followed by those with letters that follow alphabetically. The reason for the proposed change is “to ensure fairness in the election process,” according to a report from the House Committee on Judiciary which approved the measure last week. The theory is that some people might just pick the first name listed on the ballot in a race. That is the conventional wisdom, according to a study done by three California researchers on the “ballot-order effect.”
“Previous empirical research and other related research from survey methodology holds that candidates listed first on an election ballot may gain some measure of advantage from this ballot placement,” the study said.
The authors, which include a political science professor from the California Institute of Technology and a professor of law from Loyola Law School, note that the prevailing belief has been shared by courts.
They cite as an example a case in which a lower court ruled that the incumbent who lost in the 2001 mayor’s race in Compton, Calif. should retain his seat because the county clerk failed to properly randomize the names on the ballot. That ruling, however, was later overturned on appeal.
Full Article: Bill Would Change Order of Names on Ballot | Big Island Now.