Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tactical voting redux

In a previous post I linked to a site that some recommend for tactical voters. Well, a bit of browsing of babble reveals that folks more diligent than I have noticed some interesting things about that site. In particular, the site tends to recommend voting Liberal in a lot of cases where it's far from clear that this is the best option. Another site, recommended by Wilf Day in that thread, is much more cautious:
DemocraticSPACE does not endorse strategic voting (i.e. where voters cast their ballot for their second choice party to prevent a less favourable party from winning). We believe that Canada should explore options of adding an element of proportionality into our electoral system to ensure fair and accurate representation in parliament. However, strategic voting happens in Canada. DemocraticSPACE believes that it is better to make informed choices than misinformed choices. Therefore, this guide is meant to help voters who are thinking of voting strategically.

In order for a riding to qualify for strategic voting, we feel 3 conditions must be met:
1. It must be a close 2-way race (i.e. the two other parties must be within 5%)
2. The chances of third/fourth/fifth party winning riding are remote (i.e. support < ~20%) 3. Small number of votes of third/fourth/fifth party can make a difference (i.e. <>Interesting. The list of ridings is at the site, and to be even handed it also includes the ridings where Tory supporters can vote to stop Liberals. Noteworthy to my friends in Waterloo Region is the fact that while Kitchener Centre is listed, neither in Kitchener-Waterloo, Kitchener-Conestoga, nor Cambridge is it worth changing your vote in the hope of stopping a Conservative (not that I did when I lived there, but I know many people who are considering it). More surprising to me is the fact that only in Central Nova is anyone advised to vote Green, and there it's only the Liberals (who don't have a candidate anyway).
In any case, as previously discussed, the merits of voting for someone you don't really like are dubious at best. DemocraticSPACE's own attitude towards this is more one of harm reduction than anything. And the Pundits' Guide isn't keen on the practice either:
The Pundits' Guide is a non-partisan site and does not endorse any political party, and tries by the selection and application of quantifiable criteria to treat all major parties the same. I've even tried to redress the situation faced by smaller parties by starting to add in their party affiliations on riding and candidate profile pages.

However there is one issue I'm going to weigh in on during this election, and that's the advocacy of so-called "strategic voting". It's based on faulty assumptions, is frequently clumsily calculated and executed, often by people with hidden but vested interests, and most seriously: it can lead to quite perverse outcomes.
For me, the best thing about this has been that it has introduced me to the DemocraticSPACE site. The main page for this election is here, but they've covered others in the past, including the 2006 US midterm elections, and they may well cover the present US campaign as well. Stay tuned.

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