Leaving our government up to chance...

The ballot position lottery.

Tomorrow anxious candidates will gather in Harrisburg and city hall for what may be the single most important event of their campaigns, the ballot position lottery. In my race for common pleas court judge there are twenty-seven candidates for four positions. Candidates can and do win from the bottom of the ballot but to do that requires almost universal support in every ward. It is the rare candidate who can boast such strength. Conversely, a position at the top of the ballot can turn a weak candidate into a front runner. It is very disheartening to realize that my almost thirty years of legal experience and the five years I have spent building political support for my candidacy can be trumped by the fortuitous pulling of a number out of a hat.

The importance of ballot position may be even more pronounced in the council at large races. Will Marc Stier have the resources to overcome a position at the bottom of the ballot should the fates not be kind to him? Will Bill Green replace Bill Greenlee in Council because the voters see his name first?

The really sad thing about this is that the problem can be easily fixed. Simply rotate ballot position through the divisions. The candidate who is number 1 in the first division in a ward becomes the last in division two and everyone else moves up one spot. It may be a little cumbersome to set the machines this way but it is certainly doable. Even if the effort required was monumental, it would seem worth the trouble. Or maybe it’s not worth the expense. Maybe we should just eliminate elections all together and pick our leaders by lot. We could make a big production and put it on TV. Anyone who gathers one thousand signatures puts their name on a ping pong ball and puts it in the lottery machine. Voila- instant government.

If our friends on the state legislature get started on this now, we could have a solution by the next judicial election in 2009. Without the ballot position game the number of candidates running would drop dramatically. Many people are in this race just on the hope that they pull a good spot. Eliminate the advantage of ballot position and candidates would have to concentrate on gaining support on merit.

Anyway, good luck to us all tomorrow.

Tom is right

There should be a different order in every Ward to ensure that ballot position is not the most important criteria. This is especially true when there are only four positions open.

An even better idea......

Would be to have a computerized system that randomizes and resets the ballot everytime a new voter walks into the both. But I'm guessing we're years away from the technology being sound enough to make that a reality.

Lou, what's your take on all the petition challenges happening today?


I have to say that the financial disclosure forms seem to be harder than I originally thought. The incumbents are at a disadvantage as they have to file all sorts of finavial disclosure forms as part of their job, leaving a paper trail.

You get a candidate from a big law, financial or engineering firm and he only has one source of income, yet may take casino, polluter, predatory banking or labor law violators money. This candidate only discloses his paycheck.

I still have no patience for forged or bought petitions. I will write later about a candidate whose petitions were a farce, yet had enough to stay on the ballot.

The reverse is the

The reverse is the incumbents have an advantage since 1) they have dealt with the forms before and 2) know for four years they need to keep track of their financials when they run again.

The only "incumbent" that really seems to be having a huge problem is Campbell and the rumor of her not fully disclosing probably surprises little.


No one could check Knox because he has no public record. He could easily leave off sources of income and there would be no way to check. Brady, fattah, Nutter & Evans have no such luxury.

Doesn't excuse an incumbent from omitting necessary info

That might indeed make it harder to invesitage a few candidates, but it still doesn't excuse Brady, Fattah, Nutter and Evans (or any public official) from having to disclose their sources of income or interests they have in companies? Does it?


No. It justs makes it easier to catch them. I advise candidates to staple their income tax forms to their disclosure forms and black out their spouse's info.

I don't think anyone has a

I don't think anyone has a problem with forged signatures being challenged. Glad to here you are coming around on the forms.

I think we can fix it pretty easily: give people 48 hours to amend unintentional errors if challenged.


I am curious, would you still stand behind a candidate if a majority of their petition signatures came up forged (same handwriting for multiple signatures); or signatures that were not residents of that particular district; signatures that were non-party affiliation i.e. they were republican or indep., but not democrat; signatures of people who were not even a registered voter; and signatures with bogus addresses? What would you think of that candidate?

I have no problem with

I have no problem with forged signatures being challenged. But I guess I would need to hear more details about what you are talking about and need some more info. In other words, if someone got 2,000 good signatures, and 2,500 bad ones, they still met all the requirements to get on the ballot.

Random ballots

With random ballots how do you campaign with a different ballot number for every voter. Random by Ward is better.

Get people to vote for a

Get people to vote for a name and not a number? ;)

I agree

I agree. Eliminate the need for a number.

Name v. Number

What if, like City Council, you have two Greens and a Greenlee or CP judges, two Colemans

Aren't their first names listed on the ballots too?

Aren't their first names listed on the ballots too?

Ballot Pulls

Kenney pulled the first position and Greenlee pulled number 2. Other notables Goode #5, Blondell #18.

Is there a link to that?

Is there a link to that? I'd like to look and see about the judicial candidates.

Link to judicial candidates ballot position


Congratulations Jim and Bill!

The fates have selected well. This does not mean, however, that this is not a really silly way to pick our government.

Lou, my man, with all this

Lou, my man, with all this reform talk, you can have your own, and Alex's slice of pie at Thanksgiving.

But yeah, I would have no problem with it being random by ward. Not the hassle, and still a huge improvement.

I want 007

Ward by Ward is not a good idea because the candidate that is assigned number 1 in the 21st ward has a big advantage over the one who draws number 1 in the 63rd ward (no offense to Chris Drumm but numbers are numbers). That is why I suggested rotating by division within each ward.

If people really think candidates need an identifying number that is consistent throughout, give them a number but don't tie it to position on the ballot. I'll take 007.

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