Instead of wearing an “I voted early” sticker, I would much rather wear an “I voted early so stop calling me” sticker. For it is no exaggeration that we receive at least 30 calls a day from Republican groups and candidates.
That said, yesterday was the day I had scheduled to vote early. Several times this week, while driving by the polling place, I noticed the lines were long so I decided to set aside a specific block of time to vote.
My husband who had voted at lunch said it took him about an hour. However, my plan was to cut that time in half by voting during what I thought would be the afternoon “slow session.”
Wrong! I got there at 3:30pm and began standing in a long line.
The folks behind me in line were chatting it up about President Obama. A man who looked to be about 60, said Obama has not done anything to improve things while in office. (I assumed he was talking about the economy.) That man was talking to a middle aged woman who said Obama’s handling of Benghazi, Libya was disgraceful and he should go before the American people and come clean.
Contrary to my normal behavior I did not say a word, while enjoying what I was hearing and seeing — a seemingly pro-Romney crowd standing in this long line, growing longer as the afternoon wore on.
Now in order to be an early Florida voter you must be very motivated and wear comfortable shoes, for every early voter I know has said it took between 1 to 2 hours to cast their vote.
Well 4:45pm rolled around and the time to exercise my right as an American citizen had finally arrived. Polling staff asked for a photo ID that was promptly scanned. Then they told me to step out of line and wait while they printed my ballot. (PRINTED MY BALLOT.. in case you missed that.)
After about a minute, four legal size pages were placed in a “privacy cover” and handed to me along with a black pen. At that point I was directed to a desk. Fortunately I was able to sit down and vote while others were heading to the stand up voting area after standing in line for over an hour.
With black pen positioned, I was ready to fill in the little ovals next to the candidate names and amendment issues; all of this reminded me of 1960’s test taking technology.
The first names on the ballot were Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Noticing that Romney/Ryan appeared before Obama/Biden made me VERY happy because this was the second time I had seen their names printed first on the Florida ballot. Let me explain.
Last week, while helping my mother fill out her absentee ballot at her nursing home, I noticed Romney/Ryan listed first on the ballot. Immediately I thought the next ballot would have Obama/Biden printed first to even things out. But now, a week later, my ballot also had Romney/Ryan ordered first. This name order piqued my curiosity as to why Romney/Ryan were receiving what I instinctively thought was a positive placement advantage.
Little did I know then just how positive it was.
After I completed my ballot, the poll workers directed me to the ballot scanning machine, where I was instructed to insert my four page ballot, page by page. There, I asked the man monitoring the scanning machine why Romney’s name appeared first on the ballot.
He responded in a harsh tone saying, “That is the way it is and I don’t make the rules,” while my heart was secretly doing a happy dance.
Finally it was 5:15pm when I exited the polling place. When you count the 15 minutes to drive there, my exercise in democracy took two hours.
But here is the really good news and it only gets better. Shortly after I returned from voting my good friend, the national political consultant about whom I have written previously, called to ask me about my “early voting experience.”
After describing what I had seen and heard during the last two hours, I mentioned that Romney/Ryan were first on the ballot. He was overjoyed to hear this news, telling me that historically, any candidate whose name is first on the ballot in a particular jurisdiction usually receives an extra five percent of the vote.
Now, I was even more curious to understand why Romney/Ryan were listed first. On Google, it took all of three seconds to find the answer in this piece from the Tampa Bay Times headlined:
Why is the Florida Ballot not ordered alphabetically or by incumbent? Statute
Glance at a general election ballot from any of Florida’s 67 counties and you’ll notice that Republican candidates are listed first in every instance. Mitt Romney‘s name appears above President Barack Obama‘s. U.S. Rep. Connie Mack is listed above incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat. And so on down the ballot.
This is because Florida has a rule dictating what whichever party gets more votes in the gubernatorial election gets to appear first on the ballot. Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s 2010 win cemented Obama’s No. 2 placement on ballots across the state.
So now, here is a thank you to Governor Rick Scott from all Romney supporters who are now aware that Romney/Ryan appearing first on the ballot could translate into a five percent vote increase that could be the margin of victory in this “must win” swing state.
But wait, here is the kicker illustrating the great historical significance and impact of Florida presidential ballot name order.
The Tampa Bay Times piece mentions ballot name order as an important factor relating to Florida’s 2000 contested presidential election. (Surely you remember that election.)
Stanford University professor John Krosnick, who has studied ballot order for over a decade, found that in the 2000 presidential election, George W. Bush got 9 percent more votes in the California districts where he was listed first than in the ones where he was listed last. (California rotates candidates’ ballot placement.)
That year, Bush appeared first on all Florida ballots, a result of his brother being the state’s Republican governor.
Asked about the effect of this in a 2006 interview with NPR, Krosnick said it could have changed the election’s outcome.
“So if anything approximating that, even half of it, even a quarter of it, even a tenth of it, had occurred in Florida in 2000, Al Gore would have won the presidency in that year,” he said.
Once again, thank you Governor Rick Scott for winning in 2010. To be honest I voted for you then, but have never been a big fan of yours, until now.