A group of democratically-minded citizens in Vernon are hoping to reduce the chances an Adams doesn’t get more votes than a Smith based solely on the order their names appear on a ballot.
Sue Young and Jane Weixl shared their rationale for random ballots, versus names listed in alphabetical order, with city council Monday, Oct. 25, calling the traditional system biased.
“We need to protect our democracy,” Young said. “People shouldn’t gain votes because they happen to have the last name that begins with the first letter of the alphabet.”
Council agreed to consider the option and is having staff come back with a report of the pros, cons and costs ahead of the 2022 election.
In municipal elections, Young said, when there is no party affiliation and lots of candidates to choose from, research shows many voters are likely to pick those higher on the list.
But Coun. Scott Anderson, whose name tops the ballot, countered that rationale as he barely made it onto council in 2014 and failed to be elected in 2011.
“I’m acutely aware of my place on the ballot,” Anderson said.
Young and Weixl insist it shouldn’t cost much to randomize ballots, but Anderson pointed to Vancouver and a recent report which showed the Lower Mainland city spent $235,000 to do so.
Considering Vancouver is six times bigger than Vernon, Coun. Brian Quiring estimates randomization would cost Vernon $3,000. And he is in favour of the option.
“It’s always bothered me that I’m in the bottom half,” Quiring said.
Coun. Kari Gares said randomizing names on the ballot doesn’t make the system fairer, it just equalizes it.
But she would like to see another election issue addressed.
“I think we have a bigger problem than randomization: people just simply not being prepared, that is a far bigger problem.”
Young and Weixl said following their efforts to encourage people to vote in the last municipal election, they came across people who voted blindly, just picking names after having done no research on the candidates.