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Santa Monica Ballot Order Set

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By Jorge Casuso

August 18, 2022 -- Challengers will top of the ballot in three of the four Santa Monica races November 8, gaining what could be a slight advantage with voters.

The ballot order was determined Thursday by the Secretary of State using a random drawing of the letters of the alphabet. The top letters chosen were B, R, N, T and M.

Whitney Bain, Planning Commissioner Ellis Raskin and incumbent Lana Negrete will top the bollot in the race for three open seats seats on the City Council.

Negrete, who was appointed to the Council in June 2021, is the only incumbent seeking re-election after Mayor Sue Himmelrich and Counciilmember Kristin McCowan decided not to run.

Rent Board Commissioner Caroline Torosis, the only elected official in the race, will appear fourth on the ballot, possibly followed by Jonathan Mann, who would be running a record 16th time if he qualifies.

Occupying the middle of the ballot -- which some political consultants believe is a drawback -- are Samantha Mota and Armen Melkonians, who has not yet qualified for his second Council bid.

Also in the middle of the ballot are former League of Women Voters president Natalya Zernitskaya and Jesse Zwick.

The final four spots will be occupied by Troy Harris; Austin Humble, who has not yet qualified; Arthur Jeon, and Albin Gelicz, who chairs the Santa Monica Travel & Tourism (SMTT) board.

Ballot order will be meaningless in the race for Rent Control Board, where only three candidates are vying for three open seats -- Daniel S. Ivanov; incumbent Ericka Lesley, who was appointed to the Board last month, and Kurt Gonska.

Two challengers will top the ballot in the race for four open School Board seats -- Angela DiGaetano and Stacy Rouse, a Malibu resident endorsed by Board member Craig Foster, who announced this month that he would not seek a third term.

They are followed by incumbents Keith Coleman, who was appointed to the School Board in 2021, and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein. Rounding out the ballot are challengers Alicia Mignano; Esther Hickman, who ran for the Board in 2020; Miles Warner, and incumbent Laurie Lieberman.

If he qualifies, challenger Patrick Acosta will head the ballot for the race for four open seats on the College Board, followed by incumbent Sion Roy and challenger Thomas Peters.

Rounding out the ballot are incumbents Barry Snell and Nancy Greenstein.

Studies have found that ballot position matters, especially in elections where voters don't recognize the names of the candidates.

A 2016 study by Sam Houston State University in Texas found that the order of candidates’ names on the ballot affect how many votes each candidate receives, possibly impacting medium and lower profile races.

According to an AP article that year, "There have been scores of academic papers about whether being the first name voters see conveys a meaningful advantage.

"The short answer is yes, and by enough to make a meaningful difference, or even tip the balance in a tight race."

To eliminate the advantage, some jurisdictions rotate the name order of the candidates on the ballot.

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