If your surname begins with A, B, or C, you are more likely to get elected than anyone else, so new methods which eliminate this subliminal bias are called for.
This is the view of Labour city councillor Nuala Nolan who is calling on the Department of the Environment to consider an alternative to the alphabetical order in placing candidates’ name of the ballot sheet.
Cllr Nolan points out that seven of the 15 city councillors have a surname beginning with C as have both the leaders in the British coalition, Clegg and Cameron.
She also cites the practice of Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesperson and Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív to designate himself Cuív, Éamon Ó on ballot papers, in order that he is placed nearer the top, as proof that politicians “know it is an advantage”.
“The average voter looking at a ballot sheet of 15-20 names will start by checking the top names and unless s/he comes into the voting booth with mind made up the chances of ticking a candidate with a surname beginning with S or W would be 100/1,” she says.
Cllr Nolan acknowledged that there were exceptions, such as Barack Obama, but went on to point out how three of the last six US presidents were Bushs snr and jr, Clinton, and Carter.
“You did have people like Reagan and Roosevelt but they had extraordinary personalities,” she said. “It’s time for a new look at this accepted way of doing things.”