I agree with Rudman

August 26th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Brian Rudman writes:

The Local Government Commission agrees there is a problem. In its July 2008 review of the Local Electoral Act, the commission acknowledged that its analysis of the 2007 elections “did show that the order of candidates on the voting document had an impact on election outcomes.

“Candidates whose names were early in the alphabet (and therefore early in the candidates’ profiles booklet) and early on alphabetically ordered voting documents were up to 4 per cent more likely to be elected than those whose names were later in the alphabet.”

It also found “there was a significant bias in favour of candidates in the left column of voting documents when there was more than one column of candidates”.

But the commissioners called for more research, concluding “a definitive solution to this issue is unlikely”. When I checked this week, no more research had been done.

With modern systems of printing, randomising ballot papers is not a difficult task. If it helps eliminate bias in the election process then surely it should be adopted.

Random ordered ballots would be a problem in the general election, as votes are counted manually. But for local body elections which use barcode scanners, they would be fairly simple to do, and it will help reduce bias based on surname.

Either that or scrap the lengthy lists that cause the problem and create more single-member, locally based, wards.

I tend to favour single-member wards also. I think most people can choose one name from say half a dozen or so. But they struggle with choosing 3 out of 15, let alone 7 out of 30. It becomes almost a random selection at that stage.

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6 Responses to “I agree with Rudman”

  1. Brian Harmer (686 comments) says:

    Given the almost uniformly bland qualities of local body candidates, would it make any difference. And if I stood would that be any better? Hell no! I think anyone who wants to stand for these positions should be instantly disqualified.

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  2. gravedodger (1,514 comments) says:

    Totally agree with the last para. Canterbury DHB has a long list of nonentities interspersed with a few barely recognised faces who only come out in the run up to an election.
    Having a single or maybe two to represent a ward actually gives an opportunity for the elected to actually interact with electors and that has to be good
    The other bonus is that the electorate can actually assess the performance of an elected member and turf them out when they cannot hide behind a party machine list but are exposed to the light of scrutiny in their local community.
    A mate confessed after the last election that after eliminating all the females, the males with facial hair and the old males he was short of candidates to rank so brought back some of the old males. Very democratic was my response.

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  3. Bagehot (42 comments) says:

    No gingas on council. http://www.cunningham.net.nz/Home.aspx.

    Of course the main reason not to vote for this particular individual is that Adam Cunningham is the John McGrath of the 2010 Wellington election. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/print.html?path=AK0708/S00089.htm.

    Both made careers in the same minimum wage industry, food and drink. John was a “businessman and restaurateur”, Adam “owns and operates several businesses” including a cafe and catering company. John wanted to “cut the council red tape”, Adam wants to “reduce” it. John wanted to “grow tourism”. Adam wants a “welcoming Wellington”. John wanted a “strong business environment”, Adam wants to “encourage business”. But how? John wanted “infrastructure”, Adam wants to “keep taxbreaks”. John wanted a “vibrant city”, but Adam wants “thrifty spending.”

    Is Cunningham an even worse prospect than John? What happened to John?

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  4. FletcherB (60 comments) says:

    I’ve also seen suggestions (but never taken up) of circular ballots, with the names on radially (ie. like spokes).

    There’s no top or bottom…. everyone who picks one up will be holding it differently … so no favoritism from placement.

    Nice in theory… not very practical.

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  5. tvb (4,202 comments) says:

    Surely in a multi-member election you can chose UP TO the required number. I intend to vote for one person in an election who happens to be a very able person and a friend. I want to maximise his chances of winning.

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  6. Rex Widerstrom (5,259 comments) says:

    Heh… my first piece of advice to bright-eyed candidates who ask “How can I get elected?” used to be: “Change your name to Mr Aardvark” :-D

    Rudman is right, though (as is DPF), in these days of digital printing there’s no excuse, other than sheer laziness and stupidity on the part of election officials, not to have randomised ballot papers.

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