Putting candidates’ names on ballots in random order

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
June 13, 2018 - 7:39am Updated: June 13, 2018 - 11:09am

KAMLOOPS — A few years ago I suggested that Kamloops City council cut its size from nine members to seven — six councillors and a mayor. Other cities have done it.

A smaller council would be cheaper to run and more efficient, I said. The only point of having a larger council is to have a couple of extra people taking up space at council meetings — sometimes not saying much — and attending public events.

The idea didn’t exactly take off. Cutting jobs isn’t a popular idea, especially when it’s your own.

Well, here’s another idea on the civic process that might be worth trying.

Vancouver City council has decided to list candidates in random order instead of alphabetical order on the ballot in this year’s civic election. Victoria is considering the same thing.

The idea is to make a level playing field, taking away any perceived advantage from candidates whose last names begin with A, B or C. Currently, if your name is Yablonski or Zaccarelli, you’re going to be at the bottom of the list and, the theory goes, possibly last in the minds of voters.

I suppose there might be some validity to that if you assume voters don’t always put as much thought into who to give their support to as they should. Conceivably, it could make just enough difference to change the outcome in a close vote.

Kamloops tends to have a large number of candidates — sometimes as many as three dozen — especially for councilor positions, and it’s a safe bet this year’s election will be no exception. That makes for a pretty long ballot.

The disadvantage of a ballot with a lot of names put there in random order, of course, is that it might make it harder for voters to find the names they want.

But, for the sake of fairness and the appearance of fairness, why not give it a try?

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.