September 25, 2010 1:00 PM
Candidate forum coming soon:
Daily Press news staff will moderate the forums designed to give candidates an equal opportunity to respond to questions and voice their positions. Public question-and-answer periods are also planned.
All five forums are free and open to the public.
• Apple Valley Town Council, 6 to 7:20 p.m. Sept. 29 at VVC Performing Arts Center;
• Victorville City Council, 7:30 to 9 p.m. Sept. 29 at VVC Performing Arts Center;
• Adelanto City Council, 6 to 7:20 p.m. Sept. 30 at VVC Performing Arts Center;
• Hesperia City Council, 7:30 to 9 p.m. Sept. 30 at VVC Performing Arts Center; and
• Victor Valley College Board, 6 to 7:20 p.m. Oct. 13 at VVC Student Activities Center.
With the election more than a month away, two factors that may influence its outcome have already been determined: who filed candidate statements and ballot order.
“Candidate statements are considered the bare minimum by campaign advisors in most local campaigns,” said Douglas Johnson, fellow with Claremont McKenna College’s Rose Institute of State and Local Government. “Often when we’re looking at who’s a strong candidate, the easiest way to know, to check someone off the list, is if they didn’t file a candidate statement.”
But only half of Hesperia’s City Council candidates paid the $1,354 fee to file their 200 words. Six out of eight paid $1,526 to file statements for Victorville City Council. And, in the run for Apple Valley Town Council, five out of eight candidates paid their $1,337 fee.
The more candidates there are, Johnson said, the more important those statements become in helping voters distinguish between them.
Still, in the Victor Valley’s most contested race, only three out of 14 candidates for Hesperia Unified School District’s board forked over the roughly $1,500 fee to file candidate statements.
The order candidate’s names appear on the ballot can also influence voter response. Johnson said the general consensus is that ballot order can sway the vote by between one and three percent.
Until the California Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1975, the first ballot positions were reserved for incumbents. Since then, state Election Code dictates that ballot order is randomized by drawing slips of paper with each letter of the alphabet on them, slipped inside capsules that are “shaken vigorously” and chosen one at a time.
This year, candidates whose last name starts with the letter “R” snagged the lucky no. 1 spot. That means HUSD challenger Lee Richards took the first ballot position while incumbent Hardy Black is buried dead in the middle.
“We show that being listed first on the ballot increases a candidate’s likelihood of winning office by about five percentage points,” concludes a recent study on California city council and school board elections by Marc Meredith, professor from the University of Pennsylvania, and Yuval Salant, professor with Northwestern University. “Being listed in the median ballot position, on the other hand, reduces the likelihood of winning office by 2.5 percentage points.”
With a large pool of candidates, Johnson said the first two names and the last name on the ballot tend to have an advantage — particularly if there are candidates with similar names.
In the run for Victor Valley College’s board, Michael Krause will be first on the ballot and Michael Kelly will be second.
One way some candidates help compensate for the “ballot effect” is by sending out mailers with a picture of what the ballot will look like, Johnson said, with their position highlighted so that voters can easily locate them.
Absentee ballots for the Nov. 2 election will be mailed out starting in about two weeks.
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Staff writer Beau Yaurbrough contributed to this report.
Brooke Edwards may be reached at (760) 955-5358 or at bedwards@VVDailyPress.com.