When you are born with a surname like mine, one which begins with a ‘W’, you become resigned, from an early age, to being the last name on every class register.
Apparently, this is a disadvantage in life. I have read some research that suggests that the first applicant to be interviewed for a job tends to be successsful, so when interviews are conducted in alphabetical order of applicants’ surnames, I’m likely to be one of the last to be seen and will therefore have less chance of being hired.
Ballot papers are also, generally, printed in alphabetical order by candidate’s surname. The candidates at the top of the form, with the surnames which begin with an ‘A’, or a ‘B’, or a ‘C’, have a statistical advantage because some voters choose just to vote for the person at the top of the form. Whether this is because these voters don’t understand or care how they vote is not known, but it is a recognised, albeit slight, intrinsic advantage.
This bias is more likely to occur in countries where voting is compulsory and where a system such as the Single Transferable Vote (STV) is used. In such countries, for example Australia, it is known that some voters, for whatever reason, will cast their vote by simply writing ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’ … etc down the page against the candidates’ names.
To mitigate against this advantage, ballot forms should ideally be randomised – usually by being printed in batches where the candidates’ surnames are presented in a slightly different order – and this is exactly what happens in Australia.
For the Orkney Islands Council elections on May 4th 2017, however, there will be just one version of the ballot paper (I asked!). All the candidates standing for election will be listed in alphabetical order of their surnames.
So, unless a Mr or Ms Young is also standing, you’ll find me at the bottom of the list. I’ll be easy to find because my name will be proudly accompanied by the ‘Scottish Greens’ emblem.
Please make the effort to look for me at the bottom of the ballot form and vote: