Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Strategic voting: now with 100% more strategy

This morning's Globe and Mail brings us this rather unpleasant little headline: Tories enter home stretch just shy of majority: poll. If that doesn't make you nervous, then it should, and regardless of your party affiliations. Why? Because Canada needs a minority government right now. A minority government would give the Conservatives the voice they've earned in this election, but without silencing all the other voices as well. In a time of change, that sort of incremental movement is crucial--even Stephen Harper recognizes that. Not to mention the fact that another minority government may well be the one chance Canadians get for any progress toward much-needed changes like electoral reform.

So what's the solution? Indiscriminate panic among left-wing voters, causing the same irrational, bad-strategy "strategic voting" for the Liberals that we saw in 2004? Of course not. But Greg Morrow--a Canadian expat-in-the-U.S. and an urban planning scholar who runs the voting information site Democratic Space from his Los Angeles home--offers an alternate possibility. He's been crunching polling numbers for the benefit of political geeks everywhere since the very beginning of this election, and he's come to a rather interesting conclusion: in a very small number of ridings, NDP supporters have a decision to make. Morrow has isolated 35 ridings where strategic voting for the Liberals by NDP supporters could easily make the difference between a Conservative majority government and a Conservative minority government. This means that in almost all ridings, NDP supporters can safely vote their consciences--it's only the ones in those 35 ridings that could have an effect by voting strategically Liberal.

Some of my fellow NDP supporters will undoubtedly brand Morrow a heretic for this kind of statement (not to mention branding me a traitor for this post). But consider this: it's not just in Canada's best interest to follow Morrow's advice, it's also in the NDP's best interest. If all the NDP supporters in those 35 ridings where it could make a difference vote NDP, the Conservatives won't need the NDP's help to govern, and the party will be shut out entirely. If, on the other hand, the NDP holds its collective nose in those 35 ridings and votes Liberal, the NDP sacrifices a mere .2% of their vote total, and in return they gain a real seat at the bargaining table.

We can't prevent a Conservative government at this point, so even if you think doing that would be desirable, you shouldn't be trying. What the people in those 35 ridings can do, though, is make the difference between a Conservative government with near-dictatorial levels of power and one that needs the support of more moderate parties to turn its agenda into law. I'd prefer the latter, myself. Wouldn't you?


Anonymous said...

It cuts two ways. Yes, there are 35 ridings where democratic space recommends NDP supporters vote Liberal.

It also recommends 12 ridings where Liberal supporters should vote NDP.

Where is your appeal to Liberals in these ridings to vote strategic.

This is why NDPers are so leary of these arguments. They are almost always made by Liberal supporters who fail to live by the same rules they apply to everyone else.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


It's simple--the "NDP voters should vote strategically" meme is already out there. We're not going to counter it by saying "no, that's wrong you should vote for the party you like." It's simply not going to work. However, countering it with logic and saying "most NDP supporters don't have to vote strategically Liberal--it's only 35 ridings where it might make a difference" ... that might actually take. What it comes down to is that people don't want to vote strategically, and the number of people Morrow's guide is reassuring that they don't have to do so is far larger than the number of people it's pushing in that direction.

Mind you, I also think Morrow's argument that Liberal supporters should vote strategically for the NDP where that makes logical sense is also sound. But that's going to be a much bigger battle, and probably not enough to make the difference between a majority and a minority government. Which is what this post is about.

Greg said...

Me I am sticking with the NDP. Messing about with strategic voting has been tried and it just doesn't work.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm sticking with the NDP as well. It helps, though, that my riding isn't one of the 35, and that the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona is clearly the most qualified of the three.

Greg said...

I know you are hanging in there IP. :)
Have hope. I think Jack's message is getting through.

O.I.M said...

We don't want a Tory majority, but too many Liberal seats could cost the NDP the balance of power. Vote NDP. Period.

Let the Fiberals take care of themselves.

Red Jenny said...

Strategic voting is an unfortunate necessity in this farce of democracy we live in. In my riding, for example, the Liberal incumbent is a shoe-in, so I'll be voting Green. At least there my vote isn't totally thrown away. It will be worth $1.75 in campaign funding for next election. If I voted NDP it would be the same as throwing my vote away, because the NDP candidate has no hope in heck in my riding.

O.I.M said...

Um, what the @#$%$#@???

You'll be voting GREEN because the NDP doesn't have a chance? Go ahead, if you like the Greens, but don't call that strategic.