Order of Candidates on November 3 Ballot

On September 11, the Tiverton Board of Canvassers put the names of candidates for local office into a box and selected the order in which they would appear on the November 3 ballot.  Here is the list for Town Council in ballot order, with TTA-endorsed candidates in bold and underlined:

  • William J Vieira
  • Gavin Black
  • Joseph C Perry Jr
  • J Scott Burns
  • David J Paull
  • Deborah G Janick
  • Joel A Bishop
  • Denise M DeMedeiros
  • Robert D Coulter
  • Jay P Edwards
  • Sheri M Aakre
  • Nancy L Driggs
  • Joseph R Sousa
  • Raymond D Fougere
  • Donna J Cook
  • Michael S Burk

You might notice something peculiar about this list: Most of the TTA candidates are at the bottom.  With seven candidates to be elected, only one of the seven bolded names is in the top 7 on the ballot.

If a quick refresher of secondary-school math was sufficient for this calculation, there is only a 0.7% chance that just one out of seven TTA candidates would make the top seven on a list of 16 people and be the last of that top group. In 2018, three of our seven endorsed candidates were in the top seven, and all of them were pretty evenly spread across the 18 candidates.

Of course, placement on the ballot isn’t everything.  In the past, it has appeared to make a difference in some races, but in others, not so much.  In the 2018 council race, for example, only three of the top seven candidates were actually elected (this writer included).

That said, it might be worthwhile for the town to come up with a new method of random selection.  If you’re curious about how the process goes, the video is queued up here.

One observation that jumps out is that being placed in the shoe box toward the end seems to have increased a candidate’s odds of being in the top seven.  The following chart shows the order in which candidates’ names were placed in the box on the left and the order in which they were drawn out on the right. Note that the their placement in the box was not alphabetical or following any other obvious order.

TTA-endorsed candidates are colored green, and the others are blue.  The line in the middle of the numbers shows where the top seven ends.

Again, ballot placement isn’t fate.  In fact, it may make it easier to vote for TTA-endorsed candidates because they are pretty much grouped together. But the outcome did seem odd enough to think about, especially for somebody strange enough to look for excuses to relearn high school subjects.

For readers wondering about the other races on the ballot, there are none in which order matters other than Town Clerk, because none of the rest have a contest.  In the clerk’s race, Joan Chabot will be first, and Thomas Buchanan second.


Justin Katz

Justin Katz is a writer and researcher focusing on Rhode Island policy and politics. For more about Justin, see our About page. (401) 835-7156.

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