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The all-important top ballot position

A voter fills out a ballot at the Hamilton County Board of Elections in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo
A voter fills out a ballot.

Candidates across Virginia are preparing to snag a spot at the top of the ballot next week.

Candidates who want to appear first on the ballot for the June primary are getting ready to submit all the necessary paperwork on Monday March 20th. That’s the first time candidates can submit paperwork to the party committees for the primary, and the first candidate to file gets the top spot. If there's more than one waiting at the door at the first possible moment, party officials will hold a random drawing.

Jatia Wrighten at Virginia Commonwealth University says being first is more important than it might seem.

"So, one of the things that candidates can do to ensure that their name stays sort of top of mind is to be top of the ballot, and oftentimes voters who are not maybe informed may recognize your name and vote for you because it's something that they recognize," Wrighten explains. "It's something that's familiar. Even if they are not super familiar with your platform."

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says this is one of the few things a well-organized campaign can actually control.

"The election is still some time away, and so if you can get your name on the ballot now at the front of the line, that may make a difference," Farnsworth says. "I mean, it's not unlike going to a restaurant. Not everybody reads through the entire menu. Sometimes you see something you like, and you stop there. Same way with politics."

The deadline for General Assembly candidates to file for the June primary ballot is April 6th.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.