British Columbia

Vancouver does away with alphabetical order on election ballots

The next time voters head to the polls in Vancouver, the names of the candidates won't be listed in the traditional alphabetical order.

City will spend $235K to help voters deal with change to randomized order of names on ballots

As well as marking a vote, X could also be the first letter of the first name on Vancouver's new randomized ballots. (iStock)

The next time voters head to the polls in Vancouver, the names of the candidates won't be listed in the traditional alphabetical order.

On Wednesday, city councillors voted to randomize the order of candidates.

"Research has shown many voters are more likely to vote for those listed first on a ballot, meaning that candidates at the top of an alphabetical list are perceived to have an advantage over those lower down," said a statement on the city's website.

The new rules will apply to ballots for mayor, councillors and park commissioners.

Bias affects some groups more

Coun. Andrea Reimer put forward the motion in April, which proposes that candidates be listed in random order on the official ballots for the 2018 Vancouver municipal election.

Candidates are currently listed alphabetically, which Reimer said at the time, can have a bias against candidates with last names that are Chinese, South Asian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese or Latino, among others.

She claims the bias can be more pronounced with long ballots (there were 49 candidates in the 2014 municipal election) and it's a concern she has heard from people who have thought about running for municipal office.

Six out of Vancouver's 10 current city councillors have names that start with A, B, C or D. (City of Vancouver)

"It kinda breaks my heart when I'm talking to somebody who would be a fantastic elected representative, but for the fact that they feel that their name is too far down the ballot ... they don't even bother running," she said.

$230K for education campaign

As part of the change to non-alphabetized ballots, councillors also voted to spend $235,000 on "strategies to prepare voters for the change."

"As well, more staff and more voting booths will be available at voting locations wherever possible, to offset longer vote times and ensure assistance for those who may need extra support to vote," said a statement released by the city.

While the new measure is unlikely to stop people for voting for candidates at the top of the list, it will ensure that advantage will now be randomly determined, meaning candidates with names ending in X,Y and Z will no longer feel discouraged from running.

With files from GP Mendoza

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