Sep. 14, 2021

HARRISBURG – To ensure elections are conducted in a fair manner, Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R- Berks/Lehigh), chairman of the House State Government Subcommittee on Campaign Finance and Elections, today led a hearing at the state Capitol on ballot order selection and randomization.

“Current laws regarding ballot order may be providing candidates with an unintended boost, or hinderance, to certain candidates based on unrelated factors, such as luck of the draw or whichever party of the sitting governor,” Mackenzie said.

Pennsylvania’s election system currently follows a two-part system. In the primary, the order of candidates is decided by the drawing of lots. During the General Election, the party of the current governor is listed first in all races.

Virtually every race that was examined by Dr. Darren Grant, a professor at Sam Houston State University, showed candidates listed first gained an advantage in the vote share compared to a candidate who is listed down the ballot. In one primary election race that was examined, both candidates had the same last name, but the candidate listed first received about 20% more votes than the candidate listed second.

The subcommittee also received testimony from Forrest Lehman, the Lycoming County director of elections and registration.

Two bills to address ballot order and randomization are currently under consideration by the committee.

House Bill 1797 would require the randomization of each precinct’s list of candidates, so that no individual precinct will reflect the same order on the ballot. This would ensure that no candidate is at the top of every ballot.
House Bill 1838 would direct the Department of State and the county boards to establish a method to print the names of primary candidates randomly on ballots and to rotate them randomly.

A video recording of the hearing is available here

Representative Ryan Mackenzie
134th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives