Calls to end alphabetic ordering of candidates on Scottish local election ballot papers

It’s a well-established pattern that candidates with names higher up the alphabet do slightly better in multi-member ward elections in the UK than those with names further down the alphabet.

Other factors (including the perceived ethnicity and gender of a name, along with other information such as the party label) usually have a larger effect, but there is something of an alphabetic effect all the same.

New research has shown this to be the case in the first STV local council elections held in Scotland, leading to calls for change.

The Scotsman reports:

Across Scotland there were 247 cases where candidates who appeared higher on the ballot paper got more votes than a candidate from the same party further down the list, and only 53 cases where the lower-placed candidate got more votes.

Voting reform campaigners Fairshare said: “The probability of such an unequal distribution occurring purely by chance is less than one in a million billion billion billion.”

A recently-completed Scottish Government consultation produced a range of alternative suggestions, including drawing lots to decide the order of names on the ballot paper, producing a random order or printing a variety of ballot papers ensuring every possible permutation of names is used.

Ministers are now considering the responses to the consultation before drawing up the regulations for the 2012 local government elections.

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