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The layout for ballots in Philly’s May 16 primary election has been set, so residents can preview exactly what they’ll see at the polls or in the mail when they cast their vote.
Ballot design can be a tricky endeavor, in terms of both graphics and politics.
The Office of City Commissioners, which oversees elections in Philadelphia, this year had to fit 109 candidates onto the ballot. That includes the many contenders for mayor, the huge field vying to be on City Council, hopefuls for row offices like controller and sheriff, and a whole slew of judges for both city and state court. (Stay tuned for our annual Procrastinator’s Guide for quick blurbs on each person.)
Just arranging that many names in an understandable way is no small task.
The Commissioners Office managed to keep this ballot to just two pages. For in-person voters, they’ll be displayed on a large screen; for mail voters, they’ll show up on a long, double-sided printed page. The design is available in three languages: English, Spanish, and Chinese.
Where a candidate lands on the ballot can impact election results. It’s considered a boon to be listed first, which happens when you pull a low ballot number — in Philly, it’s done the old-fashioned way, with candidates drawing from a coffee can.
The specific layout can also affect who wins, especially with in-person voting.
In the Democratic mayoral primary, for example, little-known candidate Delscia Gray drew position No. 5. But because of the design of the on-screen ballot, she shows up near the top, right next to No. 1 position-holder Cherelle Parker.
Most of the ballot stays the same throughout the city, but the exact final design of what you’ll see depends on where you live, because you’ll be voting for a specific district councilmember. Each layout is available to preview as a PDF at the bottom of this page on the City Commissioners’ Philly Votes website.
You can find your exact sample ballot by entering your address at the city’s tool here: atlas.phila.gov/voting.
Need to register to vote? You can do that online — May 1 is the deadline to participate in the primary. Not sure if you’re registered? Check your status here.
Mail ballots will start being sent out shortly. Want to apply? May 9 is the deadline for the Board of Elections to receive your request. You can fill out the application online, or do it in person at either of the Philadelphia County Election Offices: City Hall (Room 142) or 520 N. Columbus Blvd.