FAYETTEVILLE -- More than 50 people braved the winter weather Friday to see Washington County election officials set the ballot order for the May 24 elections.
The Election Commission held the ballot draw meeting as required by state law. Candidates in contested races who attended in person could draw slips of paper from a bowl to determine where they will appear in the list of candidates. Other candidates sent representatives to draw for them. Max Deitchler, a commission member, made the drawings for the remaining candidates.
Deitchler said the ballot draw is a small but significant part of the overall election process. The full results of the drawing will be posted on the Washington County website washingtoncountyar.gov under the Election Commission.
"It is a critical part of the process because it determines the order in which candidates' names appear on the ballot," Deitchler said. "It's very important that it be done in an open, public and transparent process that anyone can attend and observe. It's important because it's one more way to help people have faith in the integrity of the election process."
Josh Moody, running for county judge as a Democrat, said as a first-time candidate he only had a "general idea" of how the process worked. Moody said he agrees having the ballot order set openly is important.
"It was obviously a fair process," Moody said. "The order of the names was set in a random process."
Moody drew for himself and drew the first position on the ballot. Charles Ward is also running as a Democrat for county judge.
Moody said he's heard differing opinions on the significance of being listed first, but he isn't sure it matters.
"I think it probably doesn't hurt," Moody said. "I have heard that if people don't know any of the candidates by name they'll vote for the first person."
Ward, another first-time candidate, said he has always voted for a candidate and never concerned himself with where that person was listed on a ballot.
"I'm sure every voter has their own process, but I would hope most voters will vote for the person, not the number," Ward said.
Patrick Deakins, one of four Republican candidates for county judge, drew for himself and secured the first spot on the ballot. Mark Scalise drew the second spot. Tom Terminella will be listed third and Sharon Lloyd will appear fourth in the list of candidates for the Republican Party nomination for county judge.
Renee Oelschlaeger, Election Commission chairman, said she had never seen such a large turnout for a ballot drawing. The turnout was even more impressive because of the winter weather, she said.
"The majority of those people were not candidates or their representatives," Oelschlaeger said. "They came out despite the snow. That surprised me. But it's great. I love it when people pay attention."
Arkansas Code 7-5-207 provides that the order in which the names of the candidates shall appear on the ballot shall be determined by lot at a public meeting of the county board not less than 72 days before the general election.
Source: Arkansas Code