What's the deal with the long ballot?

October 21, 2010 3:19:52 AM PDT
Voters are headed to the polls to help decide the midterm elections nationwide. If you haven't gone yet, expect to do a lot of reading. Some say the ballot this year is the longest they've seen. Judicial races make up 81 percent of the Harris County ballot. They are what makes this year's election slate so long and part of the reason you may want to be prepared before you head to the polls.

The list of candidates is seemingly endless. Nearly 200 of them are vying for 88 jobs. Every one of them wants you to check their name on the ballot...and it's the longest in the country.

"It's pretty daunting," said Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman. "But we must remember what a large jurisdiction we live in. We vote as a county, but we're the equivalent of a state."

We wondered how long it takes to go down that gargantuan ballot, and so we asked voters if they would take our stopwatch and time themselves voting.

It took Kristi Johnson 3 minutes and 46 seconds.

"It was long," she said. "There were lots of comments about it, too, inside."

"What were people saying?" we asked.

"Lots of judges."

Veronica Washington was faster. She was in and out in 2 minutes and 18 seconds after voting on 88 races and 3 propositions.

"I was fairly confident in who I chose," she told us.

And then there's Brian Gillett.

"It was extremely long," he told us.

It took him 7 minutes 19 seconds. And he came prepared.

"It's overwhelming, I would say," said Gillett. "But it really helps to have the party affiliations listed, because I would like to vote on the individual merits of each candidate, but in this situation, it's impossible."

That party affiliation is likely what will serve or fail the vast majority of the 193 candidates, according to our political consultant Dr. Richard Murray.

"Most of them get buried," he said. "And largely, their fate down ballot relies on how the Democratic and Republican straight ticket is going. Not very many voters can keep of all of these different races."

Dr. Murray also says what makes this ballot so lengthy is that Harris County is so politically even. Every race on the ballot, all 88 of them, is contested. Not a single candidate is running unopposed, and in many cases, there are third party entrants, too.

To see the lengthy Harris County sample ballot or other ballots from local counties, check our online voters guide.


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