Ballot paper order


Having failed to get elected in two earlier campaigns, the candidate previously known as Cheryl Talamaivao has wisely rethought her tactics. But deciding to elevate her position on the ballot paper by tacking her great-grandfather’s surname in front of her own may turn out to be something of an own goal in her bid for election to the Henderson-Massey Local Board.

As Brown-Talamaivao, she is now number six on the ballot paper, instead of the second-to-last at number 27 she would have been as plain Talamaivao. But the experts, in what in Australia is referred to as the “donkey vote” advantage, reckon that being second to bottom is a good place to be, and argue that candidates at the tail end of a long list of contenders share a similar advantage to those at the beginning, over the poor suckers stranded in the middle. …

The unfair advantage, in particular to those at the top of the ballot paper, is well studied and proven. The Local Government Commission examined the outcome of the 2007 New Zealand local elections and found that those listed alphabetically at the top of the ballot papers and candidate profile booklets “were up to 4 per cent more likely to be elected than those whose names were later in the alphabet”. Names like Anae, Brown, Brewer, Casey and Coney.

The commission also noted “a significant bias in favour of candidates in the left column of voting documents”.

A similar effect was found in an analysis of the 2010 Greater London local elections by City University researchers. After examining the fate of 5000 candidates, they found that “ballot position did indeed strongly influence the number of votes received by candidates”. There was evidence that “the strength of this effect is sufficient to overcome voter preference for party …”

I strongly support random ordering on ballot papers, and note that the online voting option to be trialed in 2016 may allow random ordering also, which would be beneficial.

Sadly far too many of our local body elections are not truly informed democratic votes. We need more wards, with fewer candidates per ward. I’d have every ward as a single Councillor ward so people are voting for just one Mayor and one Councillor.

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