Why Do Candidates Appear In Different Orders In Different Precincts?

Oct 12, 2016

The early voting period for the November election started Wednesday morning across Ohio. In Franklin County, some voters camped outside at the Franklin County Board of Elections office to be some of the first in the state to cast their ballots. 

Ballots can be cast from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. all this week and next week. Then early polling sites will open seven days a week until Election Day on November 8. 

Ballots around the state include the presidential race, as well as the U.S. Senate race between Rob Portman and Ted Strickland.

Local ballots include hundreds of races, including school board spots, levies, state House and Senate seats, and seats in Congress.

It's an especially-busy ballot in Franklin County, which also includes contests for coroner, county commissioner seats, and a levy for the Central Ohio Transit Authority.

The order in which candidates appear on the ballot has confused some early voters, but there's a simple explanation for why candidates appear in different orders in different precincts.

It's because of a practice known as ballot rotation.

In the county's first precinct, the candidates appear in alphabetical order. Then the name at the bottom of the list goes to the top of the list for the next precinct, and the process continues throughout the county for every race on the ballot. 

To talk about ballot rotation, early voting, and the Franklin County ballot, we spoke with David Payne, deputy director of the Franklin County Board of Elections. Click the play button below to hear his conversation with Steve Brown.

The below transcript is an automated transcript. Please excuse minor typos and errors.

Steve Brown: Today is the first day of early in-person voting around the state. Joining us on the line now is David Payne He's the deputy director of the Franklin County Board of Elections Thanks for your time sir.

David Payne: Hey Steve, thanks for having us on today appreciate it.

Steve Brown: So a big question here what does the Franklin County ballot look like?

David Payne: The Franklin County ballot, boy there is a lot for people to look at. One of the things I'd like to recommend that they do is they go to vote.franklincountyohio.gov and they can view their personal ballot prior to coming in. But obviously there's President of United States, there's United States senator, Congress, state senate, state house, county commissioner races, clerk of common pleas (court), county recorder, sheriff, treasurer, engineer, coroner, member of board of education.

Steve Brown: A lot of races.

David Payne: Yes. Supreme Court, you've got a bunch of stuff. You've got a COTA issue. If you're voting in Columbus you've got three Columbus bond issues so a lot for people to study and they're all important.

Steve Brown: And the early voting hours are uniform around the state, but what exactly are those hours?

David Payne: Well today there are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and throughout this week they are 8 a.m to 5 p.m. What I would suggest is people go to our webpage, again it's vote.franklincountyohio.gov and those hours change throughout the month of October and early November. So again you come over here at 1700 Morse Road and vote early and avoid the lines on Election Day.

Steve Brown: There were some people camping out there last night.

David Payne: There were some people camped out, can you believe that. I was not one of them.

Steve Brown: I was not among them either. If you're voting say in Clintonville you might have Hillary Clinton as the top choice who appears first in the list of presidential candidates, if you're voting across town maybe it might be Donald Trump, in other places it might even be Jill Stein, Gary Johnson. Talk about why candidates are listed on the ballot the way they are.

David Payne: OK so we have 821 precincts in Franklin County and we do what is called ballot rotation. So in one precinct Donald Trump might be at the top of the ticket and then you have Hillary Clinton, Duncan, Johnson and Jill Stein and then the whoever is on the bottom in the next precinct they go to the top so there's ballot rotation.

So it's equal and fair. The first precinct that we go in alphabetical order they're all in alphabetical order so Clinton would be the first one on the ballot in our first precinct and then second it would be Duncan and so on and so forth. But there is ballot rotation on all of our races.

Steve Brown: Do you ever get complaints from voters who might be confused and think there's some prejudice by the board of elections?

David Payne: Oh occasionally you get something like that but once we explain it to them they seem to be fine.

Steve Brown: Today is the first day of early in-person voting in Ohio for the November election and we've been talking about the ballot with David Payne. He's the deputy director of the Franklin County Board of Elections Thanks for your time sir.

David Payne: Hey thank you so much Steve.