3rd District ballot order determined by drawing, coin toss

Published 7:58 pm Wednesday, March 13, 2019

“Z” is the magic letter, when it comes to the 3rd Congressional District election. In both the first primary, second primary (if necessary) and general elections, the names of the candidates will appear on the ballot beginning with the letter “Z,” and move up the list in reverse alphabetical order.

But why the letter “Z,” and why in that order?

Of the enormously complicated process of holding an election, determining the ballot order was incredibly simple. Two kids, both children of North Carolina State Board of Elections employees, determined the order via random drawing and a coin flip.

In an interesting piece of political theater last Friday, after filing closed with 26 candidates who want to represent eastern North Carolina in Congress, the ballot order was chosen by chance.

First, the letter of the first candidate’s last name was drawn from a jar with 52 folded pieces of paper. On each piece of paper was a letter, A-Z. Once the letter “Z” was drawn, a coin toss determined that the candidates would be listed in reverse alphabetical order.

This method of randomly listing candidates, however, is relatively new. Prior to a 2017 change in state law, tradition and law dictated that candidates of the sitting governor’s own political party would appear first on the ballot.

In this case, during the general election, the Democratic contender would have received the top listing. Republicans supporting the bill at the time applauded the new system’s fairness, while Democratic critics questioned the timing of the proposal, which came shortly after the election of Democrat Roy Cooper to the governor’s mansion.

The ballot order selection process was streamed on Facebook Live and is available on the State Board’s Facebook page, @NCSBE.