For anyone who has ever wondered how the order of candidates is determined on a ballot, the answer came at the Sebastian County Election Commission Friday morning (March 7) as the ballot draw for the 2014 primary election was held.
According to Election Commission Chairman Lee Webb, the ballot draw dates back to the 1960s and is mandated by state law.
"The statute that prevails on the ballot draw basically just says draw for positions. It's been changed about about 14 times since 1969," he said.
The statute does not require any fancy way of doing it. Some counties place names on pieces of paper and then draw from a hat. In Sebastian County, candidates or their representatives (a local party chairman or a family member) drew a wooden number from a box to determine the position of their name on a ballot.
As for determining which candidate draws first, Webb said the commission asks whichever candidate filed for office first, meaning a candidate could get to draw from the box even if they got their filing completed with the County Clerk just one second before their opponent.
Webb said it was not common to see a large number of candidates actually showing up for the ballot draw, with only about five candidates present for Friday's draw.
"Usually, it's all (the) local candidates. And not all of those actually show up. You see the county office holders — the Assessor (Becky Yandell) and the Treasurer/(Collector Judith Miller) — were here today, I believe they're the only ones that were here. …So we had a good turnout considering everybody that was from the county (incumbents) showed up to draw."
As for whether the position on the ballot actually has an impact, Webb said he's not ever seen evidence to prove that it does.
"I haven't actually seen anything in writing, but you know there are some people who believe being first on the ballot gains you a little bit. By a little bit, 1-3% maybe. That's just my opinion."
That said, Miller — who drew the second place on the ballot behind challenger Steve Hotz — said she thought the position made a big impact.
"I was first (in the last two elections)," she said of her ballot position. "Yes, it helps. But I'm also an incumbent, so I get to put my title on the ballot. That helps. …I don't know (how many votes the position gained), but I carried both of the elections over 70%, around 72%. So I don't know. The first time I didn't have the (title on the ballot). The second time I did. I still drew 72% (of the vote)."
Asked if there could be a more effective way to determine ballot position, Webb said he doubted it.
"It's a pretty effective and quick way," he said. "Like I say, each election commission does it differently. We used to do just pieces of paper with numbers wrote on it. …People (said) grab the one (piece of paper) that's bent, so we kind of moved toward some wood blocks where you can't tell which is which and it works out. There's not ever a problem. No one ever complains. If they drew 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, they accept it and say OK, that's where I am on the ballot."
Following is a list of contested races and how they will appear on the ballot in each race's respective primary:
• Mike Ross
• Lynette "Doc" Bryant
U.S. Representative in Congress, District 4
• Tommy Moll
• Rep. Bruce Westerman
• Curtis Coleman
• Asa Hutchinson
• Rep. Andy Mayberry
• Rep. Debra Hobbs
• Congressman Tim Griffin
• Leslie Rutledge
• Patricia Nation
• David Sterling
Treasurer of State
• Rep. Duncan Baird
• Circuit Clerk Dennis Milligan
Auditor of State
• Rep. Andrea Lea
• Ken Yang
State Senate, District 9
• Rep. Terry Rice
• Sen. Bruce Holland
State Representative, District 76
• Bobby Altes
• Mathew W. Pitsch
• Ken C. Colley
• Assessor Becky Yandell
• Steve Hotz
• Treasurer/Collector Judith Miller