In the world of Chicago politics, the top position on the ballot is considered gold, especially in a crowded race, like the March 3rd primary to replace Rahm Emanuel as congressman of the Fifth District.

The theory–though it’s rarely stated openly–is that voters are so stupid they’ll vote for the first name they see.

Another way of looking at it is that if a name is in the middle of a long list, it’s easier for voters to make an honest mistake and punch the wrong one. Think of all those confused voters in Florida who punched the spot for Patrick Buchanan when they intended to go with Al Gore.

So candidates are generally very conscious of how ballot position is determined. “It’s who is first to file the nominating petitions,” explains Courtney Greve, a spokeswoman for Cook County clerk David Orr.

In this case, among the six Republican candidates, Tom Hanson goes first. He filed on January 14 at 8:51 AM.

Among the five Green candidates, Deb Leticia Gordils, has top ballot position. She filed January 15 at 9:05 AM.

On the Democratic side it’s a little trickier. Four candidates filed on January 12 at 8 AM: Sara Feigenholtz, John Fritchey, Justin Oberman, and Charles Wheelan. That means there will be a lottery to determine who gets top position.

In addition, there’s the sticky issue of who gets the bottom ballot position, which is not as bad as it sounds. Presumably, it’s as easy to find the last as the first name on the ballot.

In the Republican field the last position belongs to David J. Anderson. Among the Greens, it’s Simon Ribeiro. And for the Democrats it’s 40th Ward alderman Pat O’Connor, Mayor Daley’s floor leader, who filed on January 19 at 4:50 PM–just a minute after Cook County commissioner Mike Quigley.

Of course, given the tradition around here of challenging opponents’ nominating petitions, some of these guys may end up with the worst ballot position of all: off it entirely.