EAST BAY CITIZEN. EVERYWHERE SINCE 2009

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Advantage of Being Listed First on the Ballot

JUNE PRIMARY | There’s a reason why the order of candidates on the ballot is randomly chosen before each election. Studies show the candidate listed first has an inherent advantage. In some cases, the ballot placement can equal a 2.5 percent or more advantage. If anything, it’s human nature to pick the first available choice. One study suggests the distinct advantage of receiving the top spot on the ballot is even greater when three other factors are taken into account. Races featuring no party affiliation, little media exposure and no incumbents have the potential to amplify the first slot advantage.

One East Bay race in particular could be altered by this unique scenario, even though an incumbent is vying for one of the two seats. Restaurant owner Julie McKillop is listed first on the Hayward City Council ballot. Hayward holds an at-large June election, which this year includes two open seats and Councilmember Marvin Peixoto is the only incumbent in the race. No party affiliations are included in the non-partisan race and Hayward is without a doubt a media desert with minimal coverage from the local press. Many believe McKillop is making a late run for the one of the two spots and there is a very real possibility an extra 2-3 percent by way of his position atop the ballot could make the difference is a seven-person race without a clear front runner.

Clarence Hunt in the 15th Assembly District is the first candidate listed in a large field without an incumbent. Republican Catharine Baker in the hotly-contested 16th Assembly District race also featuring Steve Glazer and Tim Sbranti also has the top spot advantage. It’s an additional reason why many pundits believe she will win the primary, along with her party designation in one of the East Bay’s largest population of registered Republicans.

Luis Reynoso in Southern Alameda County’s 20th Assembly District could be aided by his top spot over Jaime Patino in a bid for the second slot behind Assemblymember Bill Quirk. None of the three candidates facing Rep. Barbara Lee in the 13th Congressional District have a chance of breaking double figures, but Dakin Sundeen is listed first and the advantage could break the logjam for a spot in the November General Election.

Most assume the path to winning the Alameda County superintendent of schools race is through Oakland. Voters in that portion of the county will see Karen Monroe listed first. She is also the perceived front runner in the race to replace the retiring Sheila Jordan, who endorsed Monroe’s candidacy.

Ro Khanna is likely to finish second to Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, but the incumbent holds the top spot, at least, in the Tri-Cities portion of the district, which might serve Honda well to narrow the perceived strength of Khanna in the newer Fremont areas. In the neighboring 15th Congressional District, Republican Hugh Bussell has the same advantage in the Tri Valley, which could aid State Sen. Ellen Corbett, a Democrat, against incumbent Rep. Eric Swalwell. Any vote for Bussell is presumed to be one less for Swalwell, the moderate Democrat. However, in the Hayward area, where Swalwell needs electoral help, he holds the top spot.

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