Citizen group wants City of Vernon to randomize names on municipal ballots

Group wants ballot changes

As Vernon gets ready to hold a council byelection, civic leaders are being asked to change the way ballots are done.

Currently, names on municipal ballots are listed alphabetically, and Sue Young says that influences how people vote.

“There are numerous studies that show there is an alphabetical order bias,” says Young. “Should last name be a factor in determining who wins a seat in the 2022 municipal election for council?”

At council's Oct. 25 meeting, an ad hoc group of concerned citizens will ask the city to list ballot names in random order for the 2022 municipal election.

“Empirical evidence shows that voters without well-defined preferences or cues such as party affiliation are more likely to select the top-listed names on ballots,” Young said.

“For example, a study in the March issue of the 2018 Canadian Journal of Political Science found that candidates in Quebec municipal elections without a party affiliation whose name appeared lower on an alphabetically arranged ballot did significantly worse than candidates nearer the top. In dozens of cases, the effect may have been enough to spell the difference between victory and defeat.”

Young says ballot order is not a suitable criterion upon which to choose a candidate, and it undermines the principle of fair elections.

“Vancouver switched to a randomized ballot in 2018. It kind of seems like a no brainer,” she said. “They are doing it again after a review of how it went in 2018.”

Other municipalities in Canada and the United States are also going to randomized ballots Young says.

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