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.Tags: Brian Rudman, Local Body Politics