Did you know that in Arkansas, by law, political candidates participate in a fun process to determine who gets to be #1 on the ballot? (And #2 and #3…) Candidates aren’t listed in alphabetical order. Maybe because everyone would change their last name to Aaron, so they can be first. But not everyone can be first, so Arkansas legislators had to make this law about it.
Here’s what happens… When there is an upcoming election, like the one on March 5th, 2024, the candidates are invited to a meeting of the County Board of Election Commissioners, like the one December 7th, 2023 in Saline County.
Each county’s election commissioners must give candidates some way to randomly choose the order that their name will appear on the ballot. Specifically, the law says:
“The order in which the names of the respective candidates are to appear on the ballots at all preferential and general primary elections shall be determined by lot at the public meeting of the county board of election commissioners…”
Those 5 words ☝️ in orange leave a lot of wiggle room for each of the 75 Arkansas counties to figure out how to draw for ballot position. Keep reading to see the list of all the fun things that different counties do to assign ballot positions to candidates.
According to Allison Cain at the Saline County Clerk’s Office, they use numbered plastic chips like in a poker game. Candidates each draw a chip from a bucket and the number is their ballot position.
Amanda Dickens in Pulaski County Election Department said they use a bingo cage. Someone rolls the bingo balls around the cage and each candidate takes a turn getting a number.
Grant and Faulkner Counties both put the candidate names on a piece of paper in a box and if a candidate’s name is drawn first, then they are first on the ballot. They keep drawing until all the names are in position.
Hot Spring County has one bucket with names on pieces of paper and another bucket with numbers. Both are drawn at the same time, and the candidate that is drawn gets the position number that is drawn.
Gene Haley of the Garland County Election Commission said they previously used a deck of playing cards but inevitably, disagreements would come up about which card suit ranked higher. So they switch to numbered ping pong balls. They put a bunch of them in a bucket, and the lower the number is, the higher the candidate is on the ballot. Gene said having several balls is better than matching the number of candidates, because otherwise it kills the surprise before the last person gets to draw.
Lonoke County uses a treasure chest. And the treasure is a numbered game piece. The chest is held up over the candidate’s head and whatever number they get is their position on the ballot.
Faulkner County candidates draw dominoes for position. In Howard and Ashley Counties, they just draw names from a bucket or box and the candidate name drawing first goes in first ballot position. Same for Van Buren, Izard and Logan Counties.
As mentioned, the Saline County Board of Election Commissioners (CBEC) will hold their public meeting and ballot position draw on Thursday December 7th at 5:00 p.m. The meeting will be at the “Vote Here” Building in downtown Benton. The address is 221 N. Main Benton, AR 72015.
For these ballot position draws, some candidates may not be able to attend. They are allowed to send a representative to draw for them. If a candidate can’t do either, then a member of the CBEC will draw for them or appoint a representative. For those present, it’s competitive fun, because this is their first opportunity to practice winning or losing against their opponent(s).
Because each County does ballot position draw differently, And because they do this for every candidate on the ballot, including federal races, neighbors across County lines will very likely see presidential and congressional candidates on the ballot in a different order from the next County.
This particular drawing is for all candidates in the March 5th, 2024 election. That includes Federal, State, Judicial, County, City and School races.
Some candidates do not have an opponent in their same political party. Those candidates will skip the primary election and be listed on the ballot in the general election, November 5th, 2024. See the list of candidates at www.mysaline.com/2024-elections-candidates.
Return to the main page for 2024 elections: