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Ballot order set for County Board primary in June

Random drawing was held after all five contenders filed simultaneously

Whether the order has an impact remains to be seen, but Tenley Peterson will be atop the ballot as Arlington Democrats on June 18 vote for a County Board nominee.

Peterson came out on top during a blind Electoral Board drawing for ballot position conducted April 11.

Natalie Roy will be second, J.D. Spain third, Julie Farnam fourth and James DeVita fifth. The five are vying to succeed Libby Garvey, who has served on the County Board since 2012 but is not seeking re-election.

All five candidates submitted paperwork simultaneously with Arlington County Democratic Committee chair Steve Baker at the start of the filing period. When that happens, a drawing is held; when there is no simultaneous filing, candidates go on the ballot in the order they submit their paperwork.

Much like in real horse racing, much attention is paid to post positions in political horse races. The general theory is, the higher a candidate on the ballot, the better his or her chances. But is that true?

“Some scholars have found that being listed first on the ballot translates into an electoral advantage, while others have found little or no evidence of a relationship between where a candidate appears on the ballot and the final election results,” notes a report from the Election Data & Science Lab of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

One theory: Voters with limited knowledge of the candidates go down the list in order, attempting to remember specific attributes about the candidates that might lead them to vote for them.

“Voters start at the top of the list and repeat this for candidates in order, but tend to get tired of repeating this process for large numbers of candidates,” the MIT analysis noted. “As a result, the candidates at the top of the list tend to be the candidates for whom voters have found the most reasons to vote.”

In Arlington, there will be no other races on the Democratic ballot June 18. For Republicans the same day, the only race will be for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate.