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Residents call for randomized ballots in Vernon elections

Local group wants to see alphabetical, order bias removed

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 said she and an ad hoc group prepared to speak before council Monday (Oct. 25) are calling for the randomization of ballots ahead of the 2022 municipal election to remove bias.

“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.”

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 list those higher on the list.

“We would like city staff to investigate two ways to randomize the ballot,” Young said.

The first way, she said, would be randomizing the order of names — “like drawing names out of the hat,” she said, noting other municipalities across British Columbia, Canada and the U.S. do this already.

“It removes the alphabetical bias but not the order bias.”

She said she and her peers would like to see the City of Vernon go a step further and change up the order of the ballots per polling station, too, if that’s allowed under the local government act.

In Monday’s presentation to council, Young will ask council to direct staff to draft a bylaw for council consideration to randomize the ballot before the 2022 municipal election.

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