Carolina Curious: 'O,' Now I Get It. How NC Orders Candidates' Names

Carolina Curious: 'O,' Now I Get It. How NC Orders Candidates' Names

8:31am Feb 21, 2020
A sample ballot shows the order of presidential candidates in the Democratic Primary. WFDD screen capture.

Early voting is underway and many people are seeing a dizzying number of names on their ballots. There are 15 Democrats on North Carolina’s ballots and 16 candidates for Libertarian voters to consider.

That led to a question from listener Yvonne Truhon: “Who decides in what order candidates are listed on our ballot?”

In this edition of Carolina Curious, we find the answer.

Let’s start by looking at the Democratic primary. Alphabetically, the list should start with former candidate Michael Bennet.

But it doesn’t. Tim Tsujii, director of Forsyth County’s elections, explains why.

“So in even-numbered-year elections, the state board of elections, by law, they are required to randomly select the letter that the candidates' names will start [with], and so for this election, they drew the letter ‘O,’” he says. 

That means, the first name listed is the one closest to the letter ‘O,’ and that’s Deval Patrick, who has dropped out of the race. The list then runs to the end of the alphabet and starts over.

Tsujii says local races don’t have to follow this rule, and candidates appear in normal alphabetical order.

Truhon also wanted to know why so many names are on the ballot when many of the candidates have dropped out of the race. Seven of the 15 listed Democrats are no longer running.

Tsujii says that because the ballots were printed weeks ago to mail to overseas voters like those in the military, and the ballot has to be uniform for all voters.

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