A to Z of council voting has candidates changing names to top list

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Cheryl Brown-Talamaivao wants a place on the Henderson-Massey local board.
Cheryl Brown-Talamaivao wants a place on the Henderson-Massey local board.

Some candidates running in the local body Auckland elections are altering their names in a bid to get votes.

One woman has changed her surname - adding a hyphenated version - that has bumped her up several places on the alphabetically ordered ballot form.

Cheryl Brown-Talamaivao wants a place on the Henderson-Massey local board. She has campaigned twice before, unsuccessfully. This time she added her great-grandfather's surname to make sure voters would take notice, putting her sixth instead of second to last out of 28 names.

Ms Brown-Talamaivao said the move was a strategic one, as she felt many people tended to vote for candidates listed near the top and disregarded those near the end.

"I just don't think it's fair the names are listed alphabetically," she said. "This is just being smart and working to this system."

Ms Brown-Talamaivao acknowledged other candidates had altered their names in other ways to try to secure votes from specific members of the community.

"I know of people who have added their Pacific chief titles or names to show the voters that they are Pacific, for example."

What she was doing was no different, she said.

Another Henderson-Massey local board candidate who will see her name listed further up because of a name change is Ann Degia-Pala.

Mrs Degia-Pala is a prominent figure in West Auckland's Indian community, known as Ann Pala, but has recently added her maiden name to her married surname.

She told the Herald yesterday she had been criticised online about her name change.

"But it's more than [getting votes]. It's personal. My birth name is Degia. I edited my name to keep in touch with my family around the world."

Auckland electoral officer Bruce Thomas was unavailable for comment yesterday. But under the Local Electorate Act, candidates can use any name in an election as long as they can prove to an electoral officer that it is their birth name or they have been widely known by that name for a set period of time.

Auckland councillors decide whether candidate lists for local body elections are listed alphabetically, in pseudo-random order or complete random order.

The second option would see names listed randomly and in that same order on all voting papers. The last option would have the candidate names listed randomly on each and every voting document and would cost an extra $100,000.

Ms Brown-Talamaivao said she supported at least some kind of randomised system as it meant for an even playing field.

The rules

Candidates can use a name:

* that is their registered name at birth
* adopted by deed poll or statutory declaration under the Births, Death, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act.
* that they have been commonly known by for at least six months before nomination day.

- NZ Herald

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