Ballot Box: The ABCs – or make that the OHPs – of the March ballot

Jan 22, 2013

Photo by Neon Tommy/Flickr

By Brenda Rees

How much does “the luck of the draw” play into local politics? We’ll know more in March when the  council district candidates will see if their position on the ballot played any factor in their wins or losses.  With a dozen candidates alone running in Council District 13, which includes Echo Park and Silver Lake,  the contenders would welcome any chance to stand out on a crowded a ballot with top billing.

Instead of listing the candidates in alphabetical order, City Clerk June Lagmay last month conducted a random drawing of alphabet letters to determine the order of candidates’ names on the ballot for the March 5 election, with this random sequence  also being used on May 21 if a runoff election is needed.  As a result of the drawing, those who last names begin with the letter “O” will appear first on the ballot followed by “H,”  and “P”   (Click here for the results of the drawing).

When candidates in Council District 13 – which is boasting 12 contenders, the largest number vying for any district council seat this year – learned their placement, there was indeed an understated “huzzah” coming from the Mitch O’Farrell camp who tops the ballot list.

“I’ve been told it’s fortuitous, something like the luck of the Irish,” says the former senior advisor to Eric Garcetti with a chuckle.  “I’m good with it. Yes, I can live with this.”

Still, O’Farrell says that the important thing is not so much the order but how voters remember your name.  But he said he does think it is “helpful” to be at top as a “nice reminder for people who know who you are. But my ultimate success won’t depend on that. “

Meanwhile, former Public Works Commissioner John Choi, whose name would have topped the Council District 13 ballot if it was organized in alphabetical order, will appear five names down.

Candidate Emile Mack – whose name is smack dab in the middle of the ballot list – says he would “love to talk to a psychologist about the how the human mind works” when it comes to making big decisions, like voting and ballot name placement.  “I don’t think my position is a bad place,” says the former assistant fire chief.  “Sure it would be nice to be ‘on the top,’ but my job is to get my name out there so that when it comes time for voting, that will be what catches [the voter’s] eye.”

Consider the plight of candidate Jose Sigala who, as an “S” realized that all S candidates had their names additionally randomized for the ballot, which is why he, an “Si”, comes after Matt Szabo, an “Sz.”

“Well, there is nothing I can do about it,” he says about his name that will be placed near the bottom of the ballot.  “I’m sure there are those people who go into the voter booth and think ‘Oh that’s a nice name, I’ll vote for them,’” says the former president of the Echo Park Neighborhood Council.

But Sigala doesn’t know how many of those kinds of voters are in his district –and frankly, a name is a name he says.

“I can only continue to build name recognition so it doesn’t matter what place my name appears,” he says echoing what other candidates are exposing. “That’s my focus right now. To get people to remember my name.”

Here’s how the names of the candidates will appear on the March 5 ballot:

Council District 1

Jose A. Gardea, Councilmember’s Chief Deputy
Gilbert Cedillo, California State Lawmaker
Jesse Rosas, Businessman

Council District 13
Mitch O’ Farrell,  Councilmember’s Senior Advisor
Roberto Haraldson, Small Business Owner
Josh Post, Deputy Attorney General
Octavio Pescador, University Professor
John J. Choi,  Commissioner/community Organizer
Emile Mack, Assistant Fire Chief
Sam Kbushyan, Neighborhood Council Boardmember
Robert Negrete, Senator’s District Director
Michael Schaefer, Small Business Owner
Matt Szabo, Deputy Mayor
José Sigala, Neighborhood Council President
Alexander Cruz De Ocampo, Charitable Foundation Director

Related Link:

City Council Election Guide

Brenda Rees is a writer and Eagle Rock resident

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