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In largely ceremonial affair, drawing is held to select candidate positions on ballot

Clyde Church takes first spot among La Plata County commissioner candidates
La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Lee looks on as La Plata County Democratic Party Vice Chairwoman Jean Walter signs a document to verify the results of the ballot drawing. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

With the election months away, candidates for the La Plata County Commission District 1 race gathered Monday at the Clerk and Recorder’s Office for a ballot drawing.

Democratic candidate Clyde Church, who was not in attendance, was the first name chosen and will be the first name on the ballot come November. Republican candidate Brad Blake and independent candidate Jack Turner watched as names were drawn from a small red, white and blue tin by La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Lee.

Because of state regulations, independent/unaffiliated candidates are always placed below Democrat and Republican candidates, allowing Blake to take the second spot on the ballot. Lee said if there were two independent candidates, the county would have a separate drawing to see who would be listed first.

“Some people feel that whoever has the top placement will get more votes, just because the voters eyes go there and they read it first,” Lee said. “I’ve done this 26 years, and I don’t feel that way at all because in my first election I was at the bottom and I won.”

Lee is unaffiliated and running unopposed for re-election. Her position, therefore, did not require a ballot drawing.

Erin Hutchins, who is running as an independent candidate against Democratic incumbent Allison Aichele for county treasurer, also attended Monday’s drawing. But her race did not require a ballot drawing because it is between a Democrat and an independent candidate, meaning the major party candidate will take top position.

Blake, who narrowly lost the 2018 county commission election to Clyde Church, was not concerned about the position of his name on the ballot. He said he is unsure if it statistically matters where candidates were positioned.

“I know it goes both ways. I’ve known elections where the top ballot name or issue doesn’t really matter,” he said.

For Blake, what really matters is the wording on the ballot questions, because they can be difficult for voters to understand.

“There’s people who are like, ‘Do I vote ‘yes’ if I agree or ‘no’ if I agree?” he said.

Blake believes his name recognition means more than being placed second on the ballot among the three county commissioner candidates.

Independent candidate Jack Turner agrees. Turner said he is frustrated that independent candidates are not able enter the ballot drawing.

“It’s kind of funny though; the number of people who are unaffiliated is 48% of registered voters and the drawing always goes between those two (Democrats and Republicans),” he said.

He said independent candidates are often treated as lesser candidates despite having to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot.

“The rule that says the two party candidates always appear at the top of the ballot is clearly set up to benefit the two political parties, especially if there’s a number of candidates,” he said.

tbrown@durangoherald.com

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