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Top Billing on the Connecticut Ballot

written by Keith Phillips

Connecticut General Statutes > Title 9 > Chapter 147 > § 9-249a – Order of parties on the ballot label:  The party whose candidate for Governor polled the highest number of votes in the last-preceding election.

In the US, each state has its own laws on how elections are run.  In the state of Connecticut, the order the candidates appear on the ballot (and in the voting machines) is determined by which party the current governor of the state is in.  At least that’s the way Secretary of State Denise Merrill (from the Democratic Party) interpreted the statute.  However, the Republican Party sued the state, saying their party should be on top, because their gubernatorial candidate in the 2010 election, in a losing effort, received more votes on the party line.  The current Connecticut governor (Dannel Malloy) was on the last election ballot for two different parties.  He received 540,970 votes as a democrat and an additional 26,308 as a cross-endorsed Working Families Party candidate.  Tom Foley received 560,874 votes and was only listed as the candidate for the Republican Party.  Although Malloy had more votes than Foley, which won him the office, he had fewer votes on the party lines.  The Republican Party brought the suit before the Connecticut Supreme Court, which has now ruled in their favor.

With the time and effort spent on this issue by the parties, one has to ask, does ballot position matter?  And the answer to that question seems to be “yes it does.”  According to Kelly Radar, a Yale political science professor, research has shown that candidates who are listed first on ballots tend to win “a few more percentage points.”  This is especially true for unknown candidates and for voters who do not have party affiliations.

We have to keep in mind that the ballot order is not just for the presidential race, but for all the different offices up for election this November.

It seems that in the short term, the Republicans have won the battle, but perhaps this is a small price to pay for a Democratic Party whose candidate won one of the closest gubernatorial elections in Connecticut history.  One has to wonder, if Malloy’s name was only on the ballot once, which party would have top line position for the upcoming presidential election.  Now Malloy will need to decide whether or not his name should appear twice if he runs for re-election in 2014.

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