Ballot positions picked for Westmoreland primary election in May
Dan Galbraith hopes his luck is better in two months, when voters go to the polls and nominate Republican candidates for Hempfield supervisor.
He was one of a handful of the more than 500 candidates running for office this year who gathered Wednesday at the Westmoreland County Courthouse to draw positions where their names will appear on the May 21 ballot.
“I’ve had better luck playing Yahtzee,” Galbraith said after he pulled the fourth position on the GOP ballot, placing him behind his three rivals seeking two nominations to run in November.
In a high-tech era where touch screen computers are used to vote, the county elections bureau used a far more primitive method to determine the ballot order. One-by-one small, numbered plastic red pills were pulled from a glass jar covered in yellowed tape with a hole cut into the plastic top.
“I don’t know where the jar came from. It was handed down to me when I started this job 12 years ago,” said elections bureau director Beth Lechman.
A candidate’s position on the ballot has long been one of many factors political watchers use when assessing potential Election Day outcomes. Traditionally, a top spot among a group of candidates has been considered more desirable than the middle or bottom of a long list.
Candidates believed it was an advantage when their name appeared at eye level on the large, one-page ballots utilized in old lever voting machines used for about 50 years until being replaced a decade ago by touch-screen computers.
“I think ballot position matters less now, but I would still want to be at the top of the ballot if possible,” said Scott Avolio, a Republican state committee member from Hempfield. “It’s an advantage to be on top but not a significant one anymore.”
Willy Gross drove about 45 minutes Wednesday to see where his name will appear on the Republican ballot for a supervisors seat in Cook Township. Gross declined to draw his own number and instead watched as an election bureau staffer pulled out a No. 2 pill from the jar, placing his name under Josh Umbaugh, whose name will top the ballot in May.
Gross, a first-time candidate, said he made the long drive to Greensburg because he was curious about the process, but ultimately decided to sit with his wife in the back of the room as his ballot position was drawn.
“To be truthful, I put it in the hands of God,” Gross said.
In reality, Lechman drew the pill for Gross. Some candidates drew their own numbers, while others used proxies.
Susan Vosefski, one of two Democratic candidates for county Register of Wills, said she was surprised by the manner by which the numbers were drawn.
“I didn’t know what a pill was. I thought it might be a dice,” Vosefski said.
County commissioner candidates and row officers had their ballot positions determined first. Democratic incumbent Gina Cerilli, who drew her own number, will occupy the first position, ahead of fellow incumbent Ted Kopas. They are the only two Democrats running.
Sean Kertes, the chief of staff to retiring Republican Commissioner Charles Anderson, will have the top ballot slot, ahead of six other GOP candidates. Kertes will be followed on the ballot by Paul Kosko, Heather Wersing Cordial, Patricia Fritz, Ron Gazze — the lone Republican who drew his own number, John Ventre and Doug Chew.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .