Why Are Candidates In A Different Order On Different Ohio Ballots?
Not every voter will see candidates in the same order on their ballot on Election Day.
ideastream received questions about how ballots are ordered as part of our Listen, Vote, Engage series.
One listener from Westerville in Franklin County asked why candidates are in a different order on different ballots, and whether the ballot scanner reads the names or the corresponding ovals.
In Ohio, candidates are listed in different orders on ballots depending on a voter's precinct, said Aaron Sellers, public information officer for the Franklin County Board of Elections.
This procedure is done out of fairness, as voters may be more likely to pick the candidate at the top of the list, he said.
“It makes it equal, so that – just because your name is alphabetically on top, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be on the top of every ballot race because of that. It just equals the playing field,” Sellers said.
Candidates are listed in alphabetical order on the ballot for the first precinct, precinct A, in any election ward, he said. In each succeeding precinct, starting with precinct B, the candidate at the top of precinct A’s list is moved to the bottom, and the other names are shifted up. That same process is repeated for the rest of the precincts, he said.
When ballots come in, election officials separate them by precinct, Sellers said. Each ballot processing machine is programmed with each precinct’s ballot order. The scanner reads the ovals that correspond with the precinct’s ballot, which ensures that votes are properly counted, he said.
Another listener from Westerville said she received her absentee ballot, and then got a replacement ballot. She noticed that presidential candidates were listed in a different order on the second ballot.
In early October, a malfunction from the board of election’s mailing equipment resulted in nearly 50,000 Franklin County voters receiving incorrect absentee ballots, said Sellers. The replacement ballot she received corresponded with her precinct, which is why it was in a different order than the incorrect ballot she first received, he said.
Voters who are curious about how candidates will be ordered on their ballot on Election Day can find a sample ballot online at their county board of election’s website.