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Critics of PR and preferential systems often argue that complexities in the ballot paper can confuse voters and inadvertently benefit some candidates over others. For example, in the case of STV, they point to the weakness that voters read down (or up) the list of candidate names and can potentially vote sequentially (alphabetically) rather than by preference. This line of argument suggests that because ballot papers are longer under STV, it is more taxing on voters who have to read through the entire list of candidates and place a '1' next to the first name they recognise, a '2' next to the second and so on, until all are completed. This is said to produce a biased result that favours those candidates whose names start with letters at the beginning or end of the alphabet. There has been evidence of this in Australian and Irish elections170 although there are several different ballot design and management techniques to reduce the chance of this. This issue arose in the Scottish 2007 elections where the SER found attempts by political parties to influence the design of the ballot papers. This led the SER to recommend a more consistent approach to naming political parties and an equitable system for positioning parties on the ballot paper.171

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