Friday, January 25, 2013

Cheshire election history: ballot placement matters

One election issue I had pondered in the past:

Does ballot placement matter?

In particular, I wondered if it mattered for at-large Council candidates.  So I analyzed this question by summing the votes for each of the Council at-large candidates for each of the past 17 elections.  My sum totals for each column included Ds and Rs, but excluded other parties, that would probably appear in the 1st column.

The total votes for all 17 elections for each column, including the D and the R:

1 - 114,626
2 - 108,608
3 - 109,602
4 - 111,590
5 - 83,638

And for the 17 elections, both Ds & Rs ran at least four candidates each.  However, five of the elections did not have a fifth candidate in one or two parties.  Of those 34 slots, 27 slots were filled with at-large candidates.  Five times the Dems ran four AL candidates.  Two times the GOP ran four AL candidates.  I used these two values (34 & 27) to calculate the average number of votes per "candidate column."

To review my data, you can see my source data here.

The average number of votes for each at-large candidate in each column was:

1 - 3,371
2 - 3,194
3 - 3,224
4 - 3,282
5 - 3,098

Nowadays, the ballot placement occurs by a drawing in the Registrar's Office.  Back in the 1980s, the ballot placement was alphabetical.  If we assume that a random drawing and alphabetical placement are similar, then I would think that the votes received by each column would be close to similar.  But that's not the case.

My conclusion is that ballot placement matters.  If you get placed in the 1st column, you are almost certain to draw additional votes -- perhaps 100 to 300 votes -- that you would not have received if you appeared in a later column as an at-large Council candidate.

Tim White

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