Order on November Ballot May Sway Elections

By: Litsa Pappas Email
By: Litsa Pappas Email

Republican candidates will be listed first on Virginia ballots for the General Election in November.

A local political science expert said this order could affect the candidates for whom people will vote.

Bob Roberts, a political science professor at James Madison University, said there is a theory that the order of names on the ballot can change a voter's decision. He said people who are not sure who they want to vote for tend to pick the name that is at the top of the list.

It is a psychology theory called “The Primacy Effect.”

Roberts said the best way to avoid this would be to get ballots that have names completely randomized.

"It's statistically significant, but in terms of the outcome of a race, it will not be significant unless the races are exceptionally close,” said Roberts. “If the races are exceptionally close like we saw in Florida in 2000, it could in theory, make a difference."

Roberts said this order should not make too much of a difference in Virginia since voters have to register at least a month in advance. He said that should deter last-minute voters who would not make an educated decision.

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