When you go into that little cubicle Tuesday, lick the tip of your Bic pen, and hunker down in one of those yellow or orange plastic chairs to vote, you'll see that Democrats are listed first in every race on the ballot, no matter the precinct.

That's not fair, and according to an editorial in Saturday's New York Times by Stanford professor Jon Krosnick, it's a problem that is easily remedied.



Before we get to the solution, let's lay out damning evidence that will scream for a change in the state's policy of ordering candidates' names on the ballot.

On average, candidates listed first on the ballot get 2 more percentage points than if they would have been listed later, Krosnick's research of more than 100 elections in Ohio shows.

Sometimes, though, it's much more than that.

President Bush received 9 more percentage points in Ohio districts where he was listed first in the 2000 election, even after taking into account Democratic registration levels in those districts.

A few percentage points might be the margin of victory in the 1st Congressional District race between Attorney General Patricia Madrid and Rep. Heather Wilson, if an Albuquerque Journal poll Sunday that gave Madrid a lead of 4 percentage points is any indication. And it might be the difference in races that voters are clueless about, like auditor and treasurer.

So, what happens if those attack ads affected you so much that you can't make up your mind in that little cubicle, and the walls are closing in and the pen's ink isn't flowing like it was 10 minutes ago, and, my God, you just want to get out of there? Or, what if you don't know a thing about either candidate in a race?

Krosnick's research shows that ambivalent voters or voters who have no clue about a race would go with the candidate who is first, because the first name you read sticks in your head a lot longer than the second. It's obvious that in most situations, people gravitate toward the first thing they sample, see or hear.

How is that fair? We're supposed to be electing candidates based on how good of a job we think they'll do, not how well-placed their names are on the

ballot.

The best thing you can do now is go prepared, knowing with certainty who you will be voting for in each election. Check out our voting guide on Page 12 or the League of Women Voters of New Mexico's online guide at Lwvnm.org. Both will give you as much synopsis as you'll need to make an educated decision rather than a shot in the dark.

For the future, though, New Mexico owes it to its constituents to enact a fair way of ordering names on the ballots. Changing the order of names from precinct to precinct so every candidate is listed first an equal amount of times is the solution that makes sense to me, Krosnick and anyone who cares about elections being fair.

With unfair practices of ordering names, it's not only the candidates who are getting a raw deal. It's us.

Riley Bauling

Editor in chief