Voting papers for this year's Whanganui District Council election will list candidates in a random order to combat an alphabetical advantage handed to some candidates.

The issue was a big focus for some Whanganui councillors debating how to order candidate names for the October election.

Electoral officer Noeline Moosman told councillors at a recent meeting that she would prefer the names to be listed in alphabetical order, as usual, because they would align with an alphabetical list in the candidate information booklet.

There were two other possibilities, a random order that would be the same on every voting paper, or a random order that would be different on every voting paper.

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The cost of the three options was the same, she said.

Thirty-seven other councils around the country use alphabetical listing, while seven are going to a random order the same on every voting paper and 33 moving to a fully random order.

One of those is Horizons Regional Council.

Asked whether the order names are listed in would influence voters' choices, Moosman said there were no statistics on that as far as she knew.

But others knew of some.

Councillor Josh Chandulal-Mackay said he had seen plenty of international evidence that the order names are listed in does influence voting and he believed Whanganui would be the same.

He wanted the decision to be made on fairness, and said a random order the same on every voting paper would still favour the first few names on the list.

Candidates with surnames beginning with the letters from A to G could have a one to 10 per cent advantage, councillor Alan Taylor said, based on his own research.

But fellow councillor Charlie Anderson said suggesting voters would simply choose the first names on any list was "veering on insulting".

Councillor Jenny Duncan initially favoured sticking to the alphabetical status quo, because she said any other approach would add a level of confusion for voters.

Councillor Rob Vinsen said the random order was clearly fairer.

When Mayor Hamish McDouall could see a 5:5 division coming he was conflicted about where to put his casting vote.

But he needn't have worried.

A first vote for alphabetical order was lost and a second vote for random order was won, with only Anderson, Murray Cleveland and Kate Joblin opposing it.

Councillor David Bennett abstained, saying he wasn't sure whether he would stand again.

DATES FOR WHANGANUI DISTRICT COUNCIL ELECTION

*Candidate nominations July 19
*Candidate nominations close August 16
*Voting documents posted September 20-25
*Voting closes October 12
*Results declared October 17-23