“Strategic” Voting Weakens Democracy

“Strategic” voting is a bad idea. Organized “strategic” voting improves nothing. Worse, “strategic” voting creates an illusion of trust where there are no possible checks and balances. It’s a scheme just asking to be gamed. Participants in “strategic” voting schemes will get taken advantage of and lose their voices.

The aberration of “strategic” voting results from a poorly structured democratic system. We still have a flawed, first-past-the-post system in Canada but that flaw does not justify “strategic” voting’s inadequacy as a democratic strategy.

Here’s why. “Strategic” voting encourages you to vote based on a sentiment of dislike for the current people in power rather than to vote positively in favour of what you truly think will be better representation, leadership, and direction for our country.

“Strategic” voting is harmful to democracy because it masks the meaning of your vote, which gives the ruling party an opportunity to pervert the system. In fact, “strategic” voting itself is a perversion of the system.

Just imagine the meaning of it. Casting a “strategic” vote means all you’re saying is that you’re against. Whereas Conservative supporters (in our current political case, Conservatives are the party in power) would be casting their ballots positively in favour of what they think is the way the country ought to go. Who has a clearer voice with a definitive vision? In the “strategic” voting case, it would be the Conservatives. The people organizing “strategic” votes are actually strengthening the voice of the people they wish to throw out of office.

The “strategic” voter’s voice essentially makes the weak statement “I’m not voting in favour of the Conservative Party and what it stands for.” Nobody knows what “strategic” voters want, just that there’s something ambiguous, which they don’t want. Conservatives can then frame essentially all debate and get support from people that are positively fueling Conservative perspectives.

On the other hand, if people vote in favour of something (that is, not “strategically” against something) then they make a statement. Saying instead “I am in favour of the NDP (or the Liberals or Greens if that’s your leaning) and what that party stands for.” That positive voice creates opportunity to frame discussion for what people truly do want. That’s how we build a better direction.

The problem with “Strategic” voting is amplified when public organisms try to structure a large-scale “strategic” vote swapping scheme or vote pledge scheme (e.g. Leadnow’s current campaign). There’s really no way to ensure that the people who sign up to swap votes or cast their votes in a particular way actually follow-through with their promises. Nor is there a way to verify that “strategic” voters have expressed honest intentions in the first place. Casting a ballot out of blind faith is totally inappropriate for a healthy democracy.

It’s a shame that Leadnow presents its campaign with so much pro-democracy rhetoric, when they’re bringing about the opposite (I suspect their intentions are well-meaning, if misguided).

“Strategic” voting is not strategic, it is at heart a cynical scheme. Lets improve our democratic system by casting a positive ballot for what we believe in and agree with, not one that hides our voices.

3 Replies to ““Strategic” Voting Weakens Democracy”

  1. Agree 100%. Our corrupt voting system First Past the Post means that ANY party can win absolute corrupte power on 39% of the vote. Vote splitting allows parties to win seats that constituents did not elect to give them. (Which is how they get 50% of the seats on 39% of the vote.) The only way to change that is with voting reform: either Proportional Representation or Ranked Ballot Voting.

    There is nothing centrist and left-leaning voters can do to stop the neo-con party from winning a fake majority. The neo-con party needs 39% of the RIGHT-WING vote to win. Unless you are a small-c conservative, your vote will not help or hinder the neo-con party.

    The Liberals often use strategic voting as a ploy to get their own fake majority. They say a vote for the NDP is a vote for the Cons. A vote for the Green party is a vote for the Cons. But if they do manage to weasel left-leaning and green votes, they will end up implementing a right-of-center neo-liberal agenda that doesn’t represent them. (For example, Chretien won half of the NDP vote, but cut spending, cut corporate taxes, cut UI benefits, reneged on promises like daycare, and had the most fiscally conservative government on the planet — $10-billion budget surpluses.)

    So voters should stick to their guns and vote on their principles. That’s the only way to make your voice heard. And fight tooth and nail for voting reform so we can have a real democracy like 32 of 34 developed countries: Voting in the free world.

  2. Definitely… I wish the energy that groups put into getting people to organize for “strategic” votes was directed at voting reform instead. Your post lays out the stats nicely too.

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