Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ballot lottery in Cook County judicial races -- winners and losers?

The Illinois State Board of Elections has conducted its lottery for the top (and, in some cases, the bottom) ballot positions for the March 2014 primary.

The lottery for the top ballot position is held because all the persons who shivered in the cold before the doors opened at the ISBE on the first day of filing are deemed to have filed at the same time: 8:00 a.m. on November 25. Were it otherwise, the line might start forming days ahead of time, as lines do for the release of certain kinds of cellphones or gaming systems.

The stakes in the ballot lottery may seem small in comparison to Friday's $400 million Mega Millions Lottery, but you might get an argument this morning from the judicial candidates who won the coveted top ballot position or the almost-as-coveted bottom ballot position.

According to experts who study these things, the top ballot position confers a decided advantage on the candidate so favored, particularly in crowded races farther down the ballot, like races for judicial vacancies, which traditionally do not draw much interest from the media. There is an advantage to being last in a crowded field as well, albeit not quite as great as winning the top ballot position.

Justice Shelly A. Harris won the lottery for first position in the race for the Gordon vacancy on the Appellate Court. He'll be listed ahead of Judges Susan Kennedy Sullivan and Freddrenna M. Lyle. Nichole C. Patton holds the bottom position in this race.

Brendan A. O'Brien will be first in the field of three vying for the countywide Connors vacancy on the Cook County Circuit Court. Slated candidate Kristal Rivers is sandwiched between O'Brien and Judge Peter J. Vilkelis.

Carolyn Joan Gallagher drew the top spot in the race for the Neville vacancy. Slated candidate William B. Raines is listed second, ahead of Patricia Spratt, Mary Alice Melchor, and H. Yvonne Coleman. Melchor and Coleman filed toward the close of business on December 2, the last day for filing, and a separate drawing was held to determine that Coleman would have the bottom line. But this lineup could change: With the exception of Raines, every candidate in this race faces a challenge to their nominating petitions.

Stephen J. Feldman won the top spot over slated candidate Diana Rosario in the lottery for the Reyes vacancy. Gregory R. La Papa and Maureen O'Donoghue Hannon have also filed in this race (Feldman and La Papa face petition challenges).

Judge Andrea Michele Buford, the slated candidate, won the top ballot spot in the lottery for the Veal vacancy. James Patrick Crawley will be second on the ballot and Kelly Maloney Kachmarik third (Kachmarik also faces a petition challenge).

In the crowded race for the Billik vacancy in the 4th Subcircuit, all five candidates were in the lottery. Brian Joseph Stephenson came out on top, followed by John J. Mahoney, James J. Ryan, Judge Daniel Lawrence Peters, and Maureen Masterson Pulia.

Judge Michael Francis Otto fared better in the lottery for the top spot for the Preston vacancy in the 9th Subcircuit, finishing ahead of Abbey Fishman Romanek and Michael Alan Strom. The other two candidates in this race, Brian Alexander and Thomas M. Cushing, were in a lottery for the last ballot position. Cushing got the bottom line.

Gina A. Crumble got the top spot in the drawing for the 11th Subcircuit "A" vacancy. All four candidates were in the lottery field. Finishing behind Crumble were, in order, Joanne F. Rosado, Scott Michael Kozicki, and Judge Pamela McLean Meyerson. (Crumble and Meyerson face petition challenges.)

Four of the five Democrats filing for the Jordan vacancy in the 12th Subcircuit were in the lottery for the top ballot position. Samuel Bae came out on top, followed by Ralph Eugene Meczyk, James Edward Hanlon, Jr., and Judge James L. Kaplan. Judge Allan W. Masters filed on December 2 for this vacancy, taking the bottom ballot position by default. (Bae, Kaplan and Masters face petition challenges.)

In the three candidate Republican field for the Iosco vacancy in the 13th Subcircuit (there is a two-person contest in the 12th Subcircuit) John Curry came out on top, followed by Richard George Karwaczka and Gary W. Seyring. (Karwaczka faces a petition challenge.)

In the four candidate race for the Doody vacancy in the 15th Subcircuit, Patrick Kevin Coughlin won the lottery for the top ballot position. Pat Flanagan finished second and John S. Fotopoulous third. Judge Diana Embil filed late on December 2 in order to get the bottom line on the ballot in this race. (Flanagan and Embil face petition challenges.)

In the five-way contest for the 15th Subcircuit Sterba vacancy, Michael B. Barrett won the lottery for the top ballot position over (in order) Sondra Denmark and Judge Chris Lawler. Mary Beth Duffy (who faces a petition challenge) and Robbin Perkins battled it out for the last spot; this went to Perkins.


Albert said...

The last ballot position carries no advantage in Cook County judicial races. I did a thorough examination of this and found no detectable bump in votes for a candidate at the bottom of a three-or-longer candidates list. There may have been other research that found a small bump in other settings--would have to check--but over the history of Cook County's primaries, nothing. First position, very much so. Last position, squat.

Jack Leyhane said...

Dr. Klumpp -- I didn't mean to suggest that you specifically said there was some electoral advantage to the bottom ballot position.

(For those who don't know, Albert J. Klumpp, PhD has been very generous, over the years, in sharing his research and analysis with FWIW readers. No one, to my knowledge, has conducted the kind of rigorous, academic analysis of Cook County judicial elections than Dr. Klumpp has. Among other places, Klumpp has published articles about judicial elections in the ISBA Journal and CBA Record.)

However, I have seen more generic articles that suggest that, generally speaking, in lower-profile races, the bottom line provides some advantage (no, I can't remember where). More important, though, candidates and their consultants have seen the same sort of articles -- which is why both the ISBE and Cook County Clerk David Orr had to make provisions for, and conduct, bottom line ballot lotteries this year.

Albert said...

Oh not at all, no misunderstanding as far as I’m concerned. And you’re right, there certainly is a demand for the last position based on the belief that it’s of value. But one thing I’ve repeatedly found in judicial elections is that long-accepted “truths” can turn out to be based on little or no hard evidence and evaporate when subjected to proper scrutiny. This looks to be another one of them.

I’ll take another run through the existing literature on this when I get a chance. Most of it looks only at the first position, unfortunately. What I recall is that the few attempts to measure the last position came up with varying conclusions; and that none of them examined judicial contests.

Really, the larger question is why Illinois doesn’t use ballot rotation like some other states do to eliminate the first-position advantage and spare our candidates from having to chase it. Especially now with touch screens, it's simple enough to implement.