OLR Research Report

December 20, 2006




By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney

You asked how other states determine the party or candidate that appears first on the ballot during a state election.


We searched the law in 49 states to determine how they decide the candidate or party that appears first on the ballot for each elective office during a general election. Louisiana is the only state not included.

Most states list the elective offices in the same order. Federal offices appear first, followed by statewide, district, and municipal offices. Ballot questions follow the offices.

We found that states use a number of different strategies to determine the candidate or party that appears first under each office. These strategies are based on (1) previous election results (14 states, including Connecticut, use this strategy); (2) lot or lottery (nine states); (3) the candidate's surnames in alphabetical order (eight states); (4) the number of members enrolled in each political party (seven states); (5) election officials' discretion (seven states); and (6) a variety of different strategies (four states).


Table 1 shows ballot order strategies in 46 states, including Connecticut, and the statutory citations for the law in each state.



Ballot Order Strategies

Order Determined By Number of Votes Cast at the Last Election

Washington ( 29A.36.161)

Most votes cast for president

Arizona (16-502)

Connecticut ( 9-249a)

Florida ( 101.151)

Georgia ( 21-2-285)

Missouri (9 115.239)

New York (Elec. 7-116)

Texas (Elec. Code 52.091)

Wisconsin ( 5.64)*

Most votes cast for governor

Indiana ( 3-11-2-6)

Michigan ( 168.703)

Most votes for secretary of the state

Minnesota ( 204D.13)

Major party with the fewest average number of votes at the last state election

New Hampshire ( 656:5)

Most votes cast

Wyoming ( 22-6-121)

Most votes cast for Congress

Order Based on Party Enrollment

Delaware (15 4502)

Democratic Party Candidate

Maryland (Elec. Law 9-210)

Majority party candidate based party enrollment

Colorado ( 1-5-404)

Oklahoma (26 6-106)

Major party in lot order

Alabama ( 17-8-4)

North Carolina ( 163-165.6)

Tennessee ( 2-5-206)

Alphabetical order by name of major party

Order Determined by Election Official

Alaska ( 15.15.030)

The director randomly determines the order of the names of the candidates for state representative for each house district. He rotates the order of placement of the names of candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, U.S. senator, U.S. representative, and state senator on the ballot for each house district.

Idaho ( 34-903)

Oregon ( 254.155)

The secretary of the state determines the order

Iowa ( 49.31)

The elections commissioner determines the order of political parties

Mississippi ( 23-15-367)

The officer charged with printing the official ballot has discretion

South Carolina ( 7-13-320)

The State Election Commission determines the order for the ballots it distributes and the commissioners of election for the respective counties determines the order for the ballots they distribute, including those for State Senator and Representative

Utah ( 20A-6-301-304)

Each county clerk determines the order

Table 1: -Continued-

Order Determined By Lot or Lottery

Arkansas ( 7-5-208)

Determined by lot at a public meeting of the county board not less than 35 days prior to the general elections

California (Elec. Code 13112)

The secretary of the state determines the alphabetical order by drawing

New Jersey 19:14-12

The county clerk determines the order of political parties by lot

New Mexico ( 1-10-8.1)

South Dakota ( 12-16-3.1)

The secretary of the state determines the order by lot

North Dakota (16.1-0605; 16.1-11-27)

The county auditor determines the order by lot

Rhode Island ( 17-19-9.1)


Virginia ( 24.2-613)

The State Board determines by lot the order of the political parties

West Virginia ( 3-5-13a)

Alphabetical order by lot

Alphabetical Order

Hawaii ( 11-115)

Maine ( 21A-601)

Nevada ( 293.267)

North Carolina ( 163-165.6)

Vermont (17 51-2472)

Alphabetical order by candidate surname, beginning with major parties

Kansas ( 25-610)

Montana ( 13-12-205)

Ohio ( 3505.03)

Alphabetical, rotational order**


Illinois (10 5/7-12)

Nebraska ( 32-814)

Date candidate filed his candidacy

Massachusetts (54 41A and 42)

Incumbents appear first, then alphabetical order

Kentucky (118.225)

For statewide candidates, alphabetical order by surname for the first congressional district. For each succeeding congressional district, taken in numerical order, the name appearing first for each office in the last preceding district is last, and the name appearing second in the last preceding district is first, and each other name moves up one place.

The secretary of state determines the order for all other candidates by lot.

*Most votes cast for governor or president at the last preceding election

**Order changes in each county or district


Parties must be arranged on the machines in the following order:

1. The party whose candidate for governor had the highest number of votes in the last preceding election;

2. Other parties who had candidates for governor in the last election, in descending order, according to the number of votes each candidate received;

3. Minor parties who had no candidate for governor in the last election;

4. Petitioning candidates with party designation; and

5. Petitioning candidates with no party designation (CGS 9-249a).