Connecticut’s Republican Party asked the state’s highest court on Wednesday to give GOP candidates the top line on the state’s November ballot, a challenge that could affect voting in the closely watched contest for an open U.S. Senate seat. The outcome of the governor’s race determines which party holds the first line. But state Republicans argued the secretary of the state was wrong to list Democrats first because their candidate, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, relied on votes from a third party to put him over the top in the 2010 election. Since lever voting machines have been replaced with optical scan machines, both sides in dispute say it matters less which party is on the top line of ballots. But academics say recent studies have demonstrated ballot order can make a small yet significant difference.
“If you look at the amount of money being spent on the Connecticut Senate race, it seems a reasonable use of resources to see what the court will do,” said Marc Meredith, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who is currently a fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University. Meredith said studies have shown ballot order can sway voting by as much as half a percentage point to 2 percent, but the effect is greater in local races where candidates are not well known.