Isn’t That Conveeeeenient: Council Incumbents Get Good Ballot Position Despite Low Lottery Draws

Except Wilson Goode Jr. He really did get the short end.


A highly-stylized visualization of the Coffee Can of Destiny.

There was some handwringing in City Hall the day candidates drew numbered balls out of that famous Horn & Hardart coffee can. The at-large Democratic City Council incumbents drew a series of lousy numbers, theoretically meaning they would have lousy ballot position in Tuesday’s primary.

The lower the number drawn, the earlier a candidate appears on the ballot. The higher the number, the lower the ballot order. And the at-large incumbents drew some of the biggest numbers of  all. Wilson Goode Jr. picked #21, the single-worst draw possible. Ed Neilson drew #18, and William Greenlee #15. Blondell Reynolds Brown did better, with #8. But in the main, fortune was not on the side of the incumbents that day.

Or so it seemed.

Fast forward two months and, what do you know, the incumbents didn’t fare too badly after all, once the ballot was laid out and a few at-large candidates dropped out of the race. True, none of them are in the coveted first column, but Brown, Greenlee and Neilson all ended up with spots along the top row of the at-large ballot. Indeed, Greenlee and Neilson arguably have better positioning than challengers Paul Steinke and Sherrie Cohen, who drew #11 and #14, respectively. Take a look below.

Conspiracy? Probably not. Civil servants design the ballot, not the politicized Commissioners themselves, and the process is overseen by judges. Still. Not bad for a #18 bingo ball, Neilson.