Editorial: Why canny candidates are playing the name game

By Kim Gillespie

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Human nature's a funny thing at times.

Why, when it comes to something as important as an election, would you waste your vote by ticking names that just happen to be at the top of the ballot paper?

Apparently that's what happens. Studies have shown candidates have an advantage if they are listed towards the top.

Some candidates in Auckland local body elections have altered their names slightly to get higher on the list, one adding the name Brown to the start of her surname Talamaivao.

In April this year the Auckland council, led by Len Brown, decided not to randomise the ballot papers, and retain alphabetical order.

In doing so they have saved a fraction of the total election cost, but at what price?

Thankfully in Rotorua we have a true random ballot paper.

When voting for mayoral and council candidates we will be presented the candidates' names in random order, and each voter's ballot paper will be different.

(This is better than the pseudo random system, where the random order is duplicated across all papers and those candidates at the top will have the advantage.)

But with 31 council candidates, more than at any of the past three elections, voters will be tasked with making sense of the no-longer-alphabetical jumble and picking out the names of those they wish to elect.

As I've mentioned before, 11 of Rotorua's 12 councillors were returned at the 2010 election, at which Rotorua had alphabetical papers. Will randomising have an effect? We wait to see.

In the meantime, please familiarise yourself with the candidates and their platforms so you can make your vote count. Over the past three days we've published a series of Q&A profiles to help you make up your mind as to who will best represent you and your interests and concerns.

These can now be found on our website, along with those from the mayoral candidates.

A wag once said "Vote early and vote often". I probably shouldn't recommend the latter, but I do urge you to think carefully about your vote and do vote early - don't leave it till the last minute.

******

Australians call it the "donkey vote" or "moron vote" advantage - whereby candidates at the top or bottom of the list have the advantage. In a country where people are compelled by law to vote, it can lead to many of those doing so not caring where their ticks go, and just ticking those boxes at each end of the list.

People who vote because they want to are obviously more engaged in the process, but more people than the last election's 43 per cent should be voting.

Postal voting is asking too much of a society that no longer sends letters. The sooner electronic voting is used for local body elections, the better.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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