Election 2011

    I wrote a post on October 18, 2011 about the primacy effect, primarily the legal basis for randomized election ordering in California:

    The order of candidates on ballots is determined by a random drawing done  by  the California Secretary of State’s Office.  The drawing  for the November elections statewide was done on August 18, 2011.  The drawing determines who goes first, by surname, which continues if people have similar surnames, like Reiter and Reid.

    Why does it matter?  It takes any politics out of the order of candidates.  Why does that matter?  Because of a phenomenon called the primacy effect or ballot order effect.  The Secretary of State’s website claims: this “procedure was established by legislation passed in 1975 in response to court rulings declaring that standard alphabetical order or incumbent-first was unconstitutional since there is a 5% positional bias among undecided voters.”  The ruling that the Secretary of State’s website is referring to is Gould v. Grubb (1975) 14 Cal.3d 661.  The court found that “incumbent-first” and alphabetical order violated the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution’s equal protection clause.


    The ballot order of the San Bernardino City Unified School District candidates was:

    Anna M. Cox

    Willard A. Hughes

    Margaret B. Hill

    Mike Gallo

    Lynda K. Savage

    Damon L. Alexander

    Elsa Valdez

    Juan M. Lopez

    Henry William Nickel

    Gil Navarro

    Dan Deane

    Teresa Parra

    Sharon “Bobbie” Perong

    The final results were:

    San Bernardino City Unif School Dist Gov Brd Mbr
    200/200 100.00%
    Vote Count Percent
    ANNA M. COX 1,825 4.05%
    WILLARD A. HUGHES 533 1.18%
    MARGARET B. HILL 6,671 14.79%
    MIKE GALLO 4,647 10.31%
    LYNDA K. SAVAGE 5,482 12.16%
    DAMON L. ALEXANDER 3,243 7.19%
    ELSA VALDEZ 3,079 6.83%
    JUAN M. LOPEZ 3,581 7.94%
    HENRY WILLIAM NICKEL 1,594 3.53%
    GIL NAVARRO 2,400 5.32%
    DAN DEANE 3,068 6.80%
    TERESA PARRA 4,218 9.35%
    SHARON ”BOBBIE” PERONG 4,751 10.54%
    Total 45,092 100.00%


    Anna Cox and Willard A. Hughes ran similar campaigns, with no advertising, and little campaigning.  Yet, because she was listed first on the ballot, Anna Cox received 1,825 votes to Willard A. Hughes’ 533 votes. That suggests that since she was first on the ballot, that gave her an edge in votes over Willard Hughes among undecided voters.

    Using Historical Data to Handicap the Seventh Ward Race” on October 4, 2011

    The conclusion was:

    So, with Paul Sanborn sitting this one out, and Council Member Wendy McCammack taking advantage of Mayor Patrick Morris’ legal difficulties, and Professor Jim Mulvihill not adding any new ideas or tactics from his previous races, it is safe to say that Wendy McCammack will win a fourth term as 7th Ward Council Member.

    Here are the results, again:

    Member, City Council SAN BERNARDINO Ward 7
    20/20 100.00%
    Vote Count Percent
    WENDY J. MCCAMMACK 1,361 57.26%
    JIM MULVIHILL 1,016 42.74%
    Total 2,377 100.00%


    As predicted, Wendy McCammack won.  She won by her second highest percentage, and her third highest vote total:

    November 2, 1999: 717 votes, 28.2 percent

    March 7, 2000: 2767 votes, 56.4 percent

    November 2002: 1310 votes, 71.47 percent

    November 2007: 1510 votes, 53.15 percent

    November 8, 2011: 1361 votes, 57.26 percent