Each state, and the District of Columbia, has its own law to determine the order of candidates on general election ballots. In 2012, there are eight jurisdictions in which a minor party presidential candidate appeared first on the ballot. Also there are nine states in which minor party presidential candidates appeared first on the ballot in some parts of the state.
The states in which a minor party presidential candidate appeared first on all ballots include five in which candidates are listed alphabetically. In Hawaii, Maine, and Massachusetts, Gary Johnson was listed first because his name came first in the alphabet, among all candidates who were on. In Nevada, Virgil Goode benefited from the same law. In Vermont, Rocky Anderson was first.
Colorado puts all major parties on the ballot in alphabetical order of party name, and the status of the Constitution Party, which is a major party because it polled over 10% for Governor in 2010, meant that Virgil Goode was listed first. It happens to be that the name of that party in Colorado is “American Constitution”, but the results would be the same if it were just “Constitution”, because “C” comes before “D” and “R.”
Utah and the District of Columbia use a random selection process to determine the order of names on the ballot, and Jill Stein was chosen to be first in both places. Oregon also uses that method, and President Obama benefited from that and was listed first.
States that rotate the order of candidates on the ballot, giving each ballot-listed candidate the top spot on some ballots, are Alaska, California, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Ohio. Arkansas seems to give each county discretion over candidate order, and in some counties a minor party candidate was on top. South Carolina rotates the order of parties on the ballot from one election to the next, and it just happens that in 2012, it was the Republican Party’s turn to be listed first on the ballot. Louisiana lists parties on the ballot alphabetically by party name, but of course that means the Democratic Party is always first, although the Green Party is second. South Dakota has a random selection but it happens that in 2012, the Democratic Party was first.
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