Candidates Strategize for Ballot Position

Pols forced into strange rituals

By Steve Rhodes
|  Tuesday, Oct 27, 2009  |  Updated 10:20 AM CDT
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Candidates Strategize for Ballot Position

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Do some voter just check the first name on the box?

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Prospective candidates for office in Illinois have until Monday to file their petitions to get on the ballot.

So why was there such a long line at state election board headquarters yesterday on the first day of the filing period?

Because of an old way of doing business that makes little sense.

Any candidate who is in line by 9 a.m. on the first day of the filing period is entered into a lottery with the chance of being picked for the first ballot in their race. Political scientists estimate that in some races being listed first among candidates can increase vote totals by several percentage points because voters are dumb and lazy.

A better solution would be to draw names out of a hat once the filing period is over and everybody who is going to run is known. An even better solution, which some states use, is to randomly rotate the order of names on ballots throughout the state, or whatever jurisdiction a race is taking place in.

But as long as Illinois's system is the way it is, you have to wonder about some candidate's strategies. For example, Todd Stroger was not among those filing petitions on Monday morning.

Stroger campaign manager Vincent Williams told the Chciago Tribune that Stroger would not compete for the top ballot line, lamely arguing that “We have a record to run on, no one else does."

Could it be that Stroger doesn't have enough valid signatures on his petitions yet? 

An alternate theory is that some high-profile candidates want the media attention that will come when they file without a large crowd around. But will voters remember that when they are blindly picking names on Election Day?

Others may also not be ready. Former state attorney general Jim Ryan is joining the governor's race but won't file until the end of the period because he apparently wants to be the last name voters see on the ballot, according to the Daily Herald. Maybe his late entry into the race forced that strategy upon him.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Proft was offering folks a dollar for every signature they collected for his petitions, according to Rich Miller.

Miller also reports that U.S. Senate candidate Cheryle Jackson was having trouble with her signatures.

It's an awful lot of expended energy on the least of our worries.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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