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You should vote

  • 10th Jan, 2006 at 5:43 PM

Last night, I trudged through the slush and sludge to a lonely brick building on 6700 Parc. Inside, I took a creaking elevator up to the fourth floor. On the plain, white drywall were signs and arrows pointing this way and that. I found my way to a cramped office with a receptionist talking on the telephone. She had a large map behind her, printed out on sheets of A1 paper and pinned up with little flags of every colour.

I was directed into a room with desks everywhere and tired women slouched in front of some computers. Piled on one desk was a stack of pizza boxes. I sat down with Diane and started filing out some paperwork. She apologised for her horrible English, and I my horrible French. She looked really tired and I discovered that she worked from 9:00 to 21:00. That explained why everyone seemed to be walking around with bags under their eyes.

We finished with the forms, she checked my papers, and then she gave me a slip of paper. I went into a small room and cast my ballot. Yes, I had gone to my local returning office. This was to register my change of address and to vote in advance. Democracy is tiring and inconvenient, isn't it?

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
— Sir Winston Churchill

I want to encourage you to vote in this federal election. But since we don't have a fair voting system, you're going to have to vote strategically. This means that you want to choose the person to win who will form the government that's least offensive to you. Here's a good way to go about choosing which candidate you want to win, in your particular riding:

Go to the Elections Canada web site and enter your postal code. This will tell you which electorial district you live in.

Click on the Candidates tab in the upper right corner, which will tell you who is running in your riding. As well as their stated party affiliations.

Now go to the validated results for the previous election and look up your riding. There, you'll see how well the candidates did the previous time.

If you live in a riding where there was a sweeping win, then you should vote for whomever you like the most. Your vote is unlikely to swing the riding away from the established candidate.

But if you live in a riding where there was a razor-thin margin, you definitely want to choose the best of two evils. Do you let the Liberals keep another seat? Or push things towards a Conservative government?

And if you think that this kind of voting is dumb, well there are fair voting systems that have been proposed. But until we adopt something more sane, that shouldn't prevent you from voting on January 23.


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
10th Jan, 2006 23:28 (UTC)
ooh, that was my riding with the razor-thin margin!
but what about the thing where a party gets more somethingorother depending on the number of actual raw votes they get? that's why i like to vote for the green party... i know they're not going to win, but i like to give them that little show of support...
10th Jan, 2006 23:45 (UTC)
Money. $1.95 a vote, I think it was. That only really affects the ridings with a sweeping victory, though - it used to be that when you had little chance of affecting the outcome, there was no difference between voting for the 2nd place party and just staying home. Now you might as well at least get them some funding. If you're in a razor-thin riding, though, it's probably more important to help pick the winner, cause a whole seat is more important than a few bucks a voter. (Unless you actually have no preference between the parties that have a shot at winning.)

My personal goal for this election is to keep Eric Steedman ahead of the Conservatives in my riding.
11th Jan, 2006 00:19 (UTC)
The allowance to a registered is $0.4375 per valid vote, per quarter. That works out to $1.75 per year.

However, the Green Party would have to win at least 2% of all valid votes cast; or at least 5% of all valid votes in which it ran a candidate.

Since the Green Party got 4.3% of the national vote last year, there is a good chance that voting Green will give them federal funding.
11th Jan, 2006 00:00 (UTC)
You're talking about section 435.01 of the Canada Elections Act, as amended by Bill C-24 in 2003.

If you think that a Conservative government would do as the federal government, then of course you should vote for the Green Party. This gives them a good shot at federal funding.

If you prefer a Liberal government over the Conservative one, then you should vote Liberal to try reducing the number of seats that the Liberals will lose to the Bloc.
11th Jan, 2006 15:48 (UTC)
i see your point.
y'know, i really wish the bloc would drop the whole separation angle, because i like most of their other policies. sigh. but i think separation is idiotic and in no one's best interest.
i guess i'll vote liberal, since there was a margin of only 72 votes last time... dear oh dear. i don't like the idea of strategic voting; if everyone just voted for who they actually want instead of voting for who they think can beat the people they don't want, i wonder if things would be different. there should be two spots to vote on the ballot: one for who you're actually voting for, and one for who you'd really prefer to vote for.
10th Jan, 2006 23:46 (UTC)
10th Jan, 2006 23:58 (UTC)
Do you let the Liberals keep another seat? Or push things towards a Conservative government?

What, exactly, makes the Conservatives the only other option?
11th Jan, 2006 00:13 (UTC)
There are four major political parties, so the other two are the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party.

Let's start with the Bloc. They do not run outside of Québec and there are only 75 seats in that province, so they cannot form a federal government. Granted, the Bloc make a very noble opposition party.

The New Democratic Party won 19 seats in the last election, which is far behind the Conservatives' 99 and the Liberals' 135. Even though the NDP had about 15.7% of the popular vote, while the Conservatives had less than double at 29.6%. Which means that support isn't concentrated enough for the NDP to win many seats.

Assuming that the NDP hold on to all their seats, and they capture all of the marginal seats they lost last time, they'd still only have 34 seats. Which is insufficient to form government.

So there are only two parties that are likely to form government during this election. I don't like this very much, but election reform is something that occurs slowly.
11th Jan, 2006 09:18 (UTC)
What if you prefer a Liberal+NDP alliance (adding up to > 50%) to a majority Liberal government? Then it may be that it is only rational to vote NDP no matter what the riding, even if it means that the Conservatives could pick up a couple of extra seats.
11th Jan, 2006 12:38 (UTC)
The current polls don't indicate that the Liberals will be getting a majority government at all. The Conservatives seems to be gaining popularity at the expense of the Liberals, so we are likely to see a minority government in the House.
11th Jan, 2006 02:40 (UTC)
Or, go to Whack the PM and beat the guy you hate into submission, then enter your postal code which will tell you who's next in line pollwise.
(Deleted comment)
11th Jan, 2006 05:31 (UTC)
I haven't written anything about election methods yet, but I probably should some day.

I'm quite partial to the Condorcet family of voting methods, specifically the Schulze method. This is the voting system that is used by the Debian project. It is a preferential voting system, which lets you rank candidates from most to least favoured.

Condorcet voting is distinguished by its simple criterion:
The Condorcet winner is the candidate who defeats all the other candidates in one-on-one contests.
It's fair because the candidate who is most preferred always wins. You don't vote strategically because voting contrary to your preferences increases the chance that someone you don't prefer wins. And unlike some other voting systems, voting for your preferred candidate won't cause her to lose!

Admittedly, it takes some high-school maths to figure out who won, but computers are good at doing this sort of thing.
11th Jan, 2006 13:09 (UTC)
It's fair because the candidate who is most preferred always wins. You don't vote strategically because voting contrary to your preferences increases the chance that someone you don't prefer wins.

Gibbard–Satterthwaite and Arrow's theorems. Every (normal) voting system allows strategic voting.
11th Jan, 2006 13:32 (UTC)
This is true.

Condorcet's weakness is that you can bury a strong candidate under plenty of weak ones, thereby artificially depressing their majority. In practise, this is not particularly effective because of Condorcet's tendency to pick the most moderate candidate.
11th Jan, 2006 14:04 (UTC)
"computers are good at doing this sort of thing". You make me laugh.
11th Jan, 2006 03:50 (UTC)
Thanks for this awesome awesome entry, Simon!

I'm surprised to see that the Bloc beat out NDP in Westmount. But then again, I don't know much about politics... hrm.
11th Jan, 2006 04:03 (UTC)

There's a situation that you didn't cover: if you've got the option to vote in two places (say... where your parents live vs where you go to school), how does one decide which district to vote in?
11th Jan, 2006 04:26 (UTC)
You vote in the electorial district of your permanent Canadian residence.

If you've decided that you are residing at home, you should send in for the form that allows you to mail in your vote.

If you've decided that you are residing at school, you should find some photo identification and proof of residency. This is as easy as bringing in a health card and a hydro bill. Then call your local returning officer to see what she says about it. Most of the time, you can just bring your papers to the voting booth on voting day, and change your information then and there.
11th Jan, 2006 04:44 (UTC)
Right, right. But the key there is the choice, and how I pick which I want to use.
11th Jan, 2006 04:48 (UTC)
Well, yes. But you're supposed to have chosen your permanent residence before you go vote. We all have to keep up this fiction, eh?
11th Jan, 2006 06:34 (UTC)
I'd say that if one of the two riding is a close race, you want to vote where it'll have some effect.

If they're both close races, then they'll have an effect either way, or if they're both already-done, then you can have no effect in the riding of your choice. :-)
12th Jan, 2006 15:41 (UTC)
You should vote for what you stand for. Strategic voting is wrong. Your vote is an important record of where you stand and an important message to others. You should stand for what is right, and what is right is consistent and principled individual liberty.
12th Jan, 2006 16:41 (UTC)
But what if voting for the person who represents you best, causes the person who represents you the worst to win?

Strategic voting is not inherently opposed to consistent and principled individual liberty. In fact, one could argue that a good citizen should be as informed as possible about the election and cast her ballot such that the right government leads the country.

Honestly, I don't like having to vote strategically. But in the absense of a voting system that fairly takes my preferences into account, I have to work with what I have.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )