Scots vote for council candidates first in alphabet under STV system

Nicola Sturgeon is to look at the voting system
Nicola Sturgeon is to look at the voting system
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Ministers are to review how ballot papers are laid out for council elections amid fears voters are opting for candidates based on alphabetical ordering.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has agreed to an official review after being told Glasgow City Council is populated by “Aitkens, Balfours, Cullens and Dochertys” because their names are near the top of the alphabet.

The single transferable voting system used at last week’s council elections sees parties fielding more than one candidate forced to list them alphabetically.

SNP backbencher Kenneth Gibson told MSPs that voters then pick the party candidate who comes first regardless of experience or ability.

He said: “The single transferable voting system produces results heavily biased in relation to surnames, regardless of vote management strategies that parties use to try and steer voters from one candidate to a party colleague.

“In Glasgow, 40 of the 43 contests where two or more candidtes from the same party stood, teh individual within each party whose surname was closest to the beginning of the alphabet received the highest number of their party’s votes.”

The SNP “randomises” its own internal ballots which means the names are listed in no particular order and Mr Gibson called for a similar approach for local elections.

“After three elections fought under the single transferable voting system there is clearly something wrong when one’s surname can prove such a decisive factor in whether one is elected,” he said.

“If the issue is not addressed, the very credibility of the single transferable voting system is at stake.”

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government will look into the issue

She said: “Following the successful electronic count last week, randomised ordering of candidates surnames is one of the innovations that the Scottish Government will consider for future local government elections.

“No decision have been taken but it is one of the changes that will be subject to consideration.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “It is important that no candidate in any election is at an unfair disadvantage, and that is why we have already said that we will examine the particular issue that Kenny Gibson has raised.”