By Alvin Finkel
Opponents of strategic voting argue that it is an affront to democracy, and that sites like ChangeAlberta are all about denying choice to voters. That’s nonsense. Identification of individuals with a particular political party in Canada is actually quite rare. Only about one percent of voters in Canada have chosen to become members of a political party.
Now, of course, for those who have made that choice and believe in their party strongly, it sometimes seems unjust that people come along and say: your party and party y are similar enough and sufficiently different from party z, which I oppose heartily, that my vote will go to whichever of your party and party y seems to have the best chance of defeating z. If you belong to party x and feel, for whatever reason, that it alone embodies all that is good, fine, go ahead and vote for it. But don’t accuse others who view your party differently and don’t see it as all that unique of being undemocratic, of wanting to mislead the voters, etc. You live in a bubble that they don’t live in.
After all, even within the parties, and sometimes even among the activists, there are many people who choose to vote strategically. When they see that their party is unable to run a real campaign in their riding, and has no chance of succeeding, they decide that they do not want to waste their vote and so they give their vote to the candidate of one of the two top contenders in the riding. Now, of course, many other party stalwarts would never do that. They believe that in all conscience they can only vote for the candidate of their party and do not want to be in a position of choosing the least obnoxious of the top two choices. Some also rationalize that if their party is ever going to be a contender in a particular constituency, it needs to have all of its current supporters voting for it so that it has a base to build on for the next time.
But if you are not a member of any party or a fervent supporter–it seems strange not to join a party that you are fervent about since all the parties charge almost nothing to join and impose no obligations on members–the logic of worrying about future elections makes no sense. Nor are you likely to want to defy the logic of a first-past-the-post system by deliberately voting for someone who has no realistic chance of coming either first or second, that is someone who is not really in the race this time around. And if you do want to defy that logic, most strategic voters and strategic vote site operators respect your choice.
So, for voters, whether you are one percenters (members of a political party) or not, if you are more interested in defeating government members or candidates of a particular political leaning (whether left or right or separatist or anti-environmentalist) it certainly makes sense to consider strategic voting. You are then faced with the dilemma though of figuring out who the top two horses in a race are. Sometimes that’s easy enough and sometimes it seems rather difficult. The point of a strategic voting site is to give you information that will help you out with that decision. Obviously, as opponents of strategic voting harp upon, such sites make mistakes. Like you, they might misread the cues about what’s going on in the heads of your fellow constituents. But they are spending more time and resources in trying to figure it out than you might be able to expend. So, they are worth your consideration.
ChangeAlberta, the DRP-created strategic voting website, will be recommending candidates with a chance of defeating both the Tories and Wildrose in select constituencies (constituencies where someone who does not believe in either the tooth fairy or Santa Claus nonetheless believes that a candidate who is to the left of Genghis Khan still has a remote chance of winning). We won’t be favouring any party and we won’t be considering which candidates of the NDP, Liberals, Alberta Party, and Evergreens seem morally more worthy than other candidates. Each voter who wants to vote purely on the basis of party or the worthiness of individual candidates can make that choice and hardly needs a third party’s advice. But for voters who mainly want to throw the rascals (the Tories)out without replacing them with even worse rascals (Wildrose), or at least to have a large somewhat progressive opposition in the legislature, ChangeAlberta will offer a great deal of assistance as they ponder their vote.