At the O’Fallon City Council workshop on June 13, City Clerk Pam Clement requested direction from the council about how candidate names are to be placed on the ballot in future city elections.
The council informally voted 10-0 to move to a lotto process for the next election on April 7, 2020. Previously, O’Fallon utilized a line-up process to determine the order of names on the ballot. However, state election statutes give each city the right to choose a preferred naming method. O’Fallon is joining the other Missouri cities in utilizing a lotto process for election ballots.
This isn’t the first time the council has discussed the change. In 2016, council member Dave Hinman [Ward 1] had requested a discussion on the same issue; however, there was not enough support at that time to change the process. Last month, council member Jim Ottomeyer [Ward 4] again requested a discussion on the way the order of the ballot is established, which resulted in Clement seeking direction from the council.
In the current O’Fallon process, candidates line up at the west entrance of city hall before the first day of filing; names are filed depending on the order of the line. The first in line is considered the first to file and becomes the first name on the ballot; the process continues in that fashion until all candidates have filed. First in line filing can result in candidates camping out overnight to be the first in line.
Cities currently using a line-up process include St. Peters, Chesterfield and Columbia. However, Clement noted that Columbia also plans to switch to a lotto process later in 2019.
In a lotto process, candidate names are drawn from a box to determine the ballot sequence. Cities currently using a lotto process include St. Charles and Wentzville.
During the informal discussion, Clement said previous voting trends indicated that people tended to vote for the first or the last name on the ballot, but that trends have changed over time in favor of elements like recognition and public visibility. Council member Jeff Kuehn [Ward 4] agreed, saying that voters will find individuals they want to vote for regardless of ballot placement.
“If they know you they will find you,” Kuehn said. He said he was voted into his council seat even though his name was not at the top of last election’s ballot.
Council members Ottomeyer and Tom Herweck [Ward 2] agreed with Kuehn, and council member Dale Kling [Ward 3] pointed out the potential legal issues regarding a candidate’s ability to participate in all-night line-ups. Factors could include a candidate’s age, safety and security. Kling referenced one occasion where a homeless person joined the election line-up outside and inside the city hall. Certain weather conditions also can render a line-up difficult and potentially unsafe.
Herweck also noted that in the past, some voters viewed participating in the line-up as a “sign of a candidate’s commitment.” However, he said that a better sign of commitment was getting out and knocking on doors, going to events and talking to residents.
Following council discussion, Mayor Bill Hennessy called for a voice vote about a lotto process. Specifically, the process would include a lotto for all candidates who filed on day one and a second lotto for all candidates who filed after day one through the end of filing. Names from the second lotto would be placed behind the names from the first lotto.
The council unanimously voted in favor of the change. The change will go into effect for the city’s next municipal election scheduled for April 7, 2020.