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Can Ballot Placement Influence an Election Outcome?

For the 78 people running for Austin City Council and Mayor this fall, where their name is on the ballot can make a real difference on Election Day. And that was determined by a random drawing on Wednesday.

Austin's Clerk JannetteGoodall says placing the names in alphabetical order was not an option. So, she went old school with a random selection.

Goodall opened an envelope. In it, small pieces of paper had the candidates' names. Then, she dumped the pieces of paper into a glass jar. With her hand in the jar, she ruffled the pieces of paper.

"This is very high-tech," Goodall joked. With that, she picked the first name.  

"Position number one will go to Mary Catherine Krenek," she announced. 

Krenek is one of eight candidates for mayor.

UT Psychology professor Art Markman says name recognition may be one of the most important things a candidate can have in an election. But just as important may be ballot placement. Markman says that's just how our brains are wired. We normally gravitate toward the last item on a list. "This is why supermarkets put products that they want you to grab at the very end of the aisle," Markman said.

Today, the names with the most recognition for the mayoral race, ended up in the middle of the pack. The last name drawn was Steve Adler's.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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