Even if foreign cyber-hackers did tamper with the election, ultimately it was an outdated American law that put Trump over the top - and somehow no one is talking about it. In 1998, Stanford political scientist, Jon Krosnick discovered something disturbing about the US Presidential election process. Despite his conclusive findings, the laws were never updated. If they had been, Hillary Clinton would have won easily with 293 electoral votes to Trump’s 245.
What could have created a difference of 61 electoral votes? (Are you ready?)
The order the names appeared on the ballots.
Yup. Had the names been listed in a different order, there would be a different result in six crucial states (see below for details), and we would have a different president-elect.
That can’t be right. People vote based on policy, platform, political party, trustworthiness, candidate charisma, and issues that are important to them, right? They don’t vote based on how the names appear on the ballot!
I write books on influence and I still have a hard time believing it. (I’m giving away seven chapters of my upcoming book, True Influence at the end of this article because I’m on a mission to make sure everyone understands how to properly use - and defend against - influence strategies.)
There is a lot of evidence for what psychologists call the “primacy and recency effect” - which affects all kinds of decisions from which wine or bubble gum brands we choose to which American Idol contestant we vote for. It’s best to be first, last is next best, and the middle is the worst. But can something as trivial as who’s on first affect something as important as a presidential election?
While most people know exactly who they’re voting for before they ever see the ballot, name order does in fact influence some voters. How do we know? Because Ohio.
In Ohio, ballot order is rotated randomly by precinct. This is a social scientist’s dream. Real people making real decisions with a controlled and isolated variable. All Krosnick had to do was look at the numbers. He found the average influence ballot order has on a Presidential election is about 2%.
That may not seem like much, but six states were won by less than a 2% margin of victory. Is it possible that the primacy and recency effect could have tipped the scales for a small percentage of voters in the 2016 election as well? Was Trump’s victory decided by ballot order? By freakin’ BALLOT ORDER?!?
My opinion? Most definitely, yes.
Every state determines ballot order differently, so let’s look at those six states where 2% actually would have made a difference.
New Hampshire (Electoral Votes: 4)
According to CenterForPolitics.org ballot order is determined in New Hampshire by “party placed by total number of votes in last presidential election.”
Who won the last election? Barack Obama. He’s a Democrat, so the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton was listed first on every ballot in New Hampshire and Hillary ended up winning New Hampshire by 0.4%.
Minnesota (Electoral Votes: 10)
Ballot order here is determined by “reverse order of votes for all statewide candidates in last election.” I grabbed my calculator and Googled the 2014 election results. The Libertarian Party received the fewest votes putting Gary Johnson first on the ballot.
Democrats and Republicans received the most votes respectively putting Hillary last on the ballot and Trump second-to-last.
Again, Hillary took advantage of the primacy and recency effect and ended up winning Minnesota by 1.5% while Trump got stuck in the middle.
Wisconsin (Electoral Votes: 10)
Now things get a little more interesting.
Ballot order is determined in Wisconsin by “order of votes for party (governor) in previous election.”
Who won the gubernatorial race in 2014? Scott Walker…a Republican. That puts the Republican candidate in the top spot.
Donald Trump was listed first and won Wisconsin by just 0.8%. Had he been in the middle, he would have lost the estimated 2% boost from the ballot order effect, giving Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes to Hillary.
Michigan (Electoral Votes: 16)
How do they set ballot order in Michigan? “Order of votes for party in previous secretary of state election.”
Who won the previous secretary of state election in Michigan? Ruth Johnson…Republican. That put Trump at the top of the ballot again, giving him a narrow 0.3% victory and all of Michigan’s electoral votes.
Pennsylvania (Electoral Votes: 20)
In Pennsylvania, the party in power is listed first on the ballot.
Who is the majority leader of the Pennsylvania State Senate? Jake Corman…Republican. That put Trump at the top of every ballot in Pennsylvania, giving him a 1.2% edge and all of Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.
Florida (Electoral Votes: 29)
Oh, Florida. With your hanging chads and other electile dysfunctions.
Ballot order here is decided by “order of votes for party in previous election.”
Who won the Florida gubernatorial race in 2014? None other than Rick Scott…a Republican and bald man, who has been described by the Miami media as “Donald Trump without the wig”.
Again, Trump was first on every ballot and yet he only won by just 1.3%, capturing a whopping 29 electoral votes and sealing his victory.
Ballot order gave Trump the edge he needed to win the presidency.
Change the ballot in those six states and Hillary Clinton would have won with 293 electoral votes and the popular vote.
I’m not here to whine about who should or should not be president. (I didn’t vote for Hillary or Donald.) It happened and it’s over.
I’m more interested in asking, what do we do now?
Now that we understand the impact of ballot order, most laws are simply outdated. Only twelve states mandate that ballot name order be rotated by precinct. Twelve!
The solution is simple. Use randomized, rotational systems in every state. Let’s make America fair again.
Now here’s the link for the free sample of True Influence that I promised: http://www.GoodAtPeople.com/huffpost