Still no to alphabetical ballot

A survey of Lower Mainland municipalities that use alphabetical ballots shows they are more likely to elect councillors closer to A than Z, Langley Township Councillor Kim Richter said Monday (June 16).

Richter said her review found among 12 of 15 municipalities that use alphabetical ordering, most elected councillors were from the “first half” of the alphabet.

She was trying to convince council to reverse a May vote to stop randomly ordering names on the election, a practice the Township has followed since 1993.

Richter was not present for the May vote and said it should be reconsidered in light of the new information that suggests an alphabetical ballot gives some names an advantage.

“The data appears to show that if your names started with an “A” to an “M” your chances are better [under an alphabetical system],” Richter said.

Councillor Bev Dornan spoke for the majority of council, saying the change was made in response to complaints that randomly ordered names make it difficult to find a particular candidate when a lot of people are running.

“It is easier for voters,” Dornan said.

A report by chief electoral officer Bob Wilson said some voters found it hard to find names on the ballot during the last election in 2011, when people had to select up to 14 names from 41 candidates for mayor, councillor and school trustee.

When the Richter proposal to return to a random order came to a vote, the decision, by a 6-3 margin, was for the A-to-Z approach

The change won’t affect candidates for school trustee, who will still appear in a random order determined by drawing lots, unless the Langley Board of Education decides to make a change.

A number of studies have suggested there is a “ballot order effect” that favours people listed at the top.

A 2013 review of California municipal elections concluded there is a measurable advantage, with candidates listed first on a ballot winning between four and five percentage points more often.

Langley City lists candidates for mayor and council alphabetically, but candidates for the board of education are arranged randomly.

The 2014 municipal vote for mayor, council and school trustee positions in the Township and city will be held on Nov. 15, a Saturday.

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