Candidates in this year’s Waikato Regional Council elections will have their names picked out of a hat to decide the order in which they will be listed on the voting papers.
Councils have three options for deciding the order in which candidates’ names appear - alphabetical, pseudo-random and fully random order.
In previous elections, the council has used the alphabetical option. Candidate names are sorted alphabetically by their surnames, from A to Z. This is the simplest method for voters because they can quickly find the candidates they want to vote for, assuming they have made their decisions already. However, research suggests that candidates whose names are listed first in a voting paper have a better chance of winning office.
The council decided this week that the pseudo-random order would help create a more even playing field for candidates without increasing costs. Under this option, candidates’ names are drawn randomly to determine the order of names on all voting documents, which will be identical.
All candidates have the same chance of being first on the voting documents. Candidates with a surname starting with a letter late in the alphabet are disadvantaged no more or less than any other candidate under this method, although the candidate whose name is selected first for the list gains a potential advantage as their name appears first on every voting document for that election.
The council will promote the date, time and place at which the order of the candidates’ names will be drawn from the hat and the public is welcome to attend to watch the draw.
The cost of printing voting documents using either alphabetical or pseudo-random order is the same. The completely random order, which scrambles the order of names on each paper, increases costs because each voting document is individually printed.
Local body elections will be held on Saturday, 12 October.