Vote Swap

What to do with a broken system?

As the Conservatives dance around the 40% mark in the polls, which in our first-past-the-post democracy-like system means a majority government, there is something the concerned voter can do – vote swap. In a vote swap, voters in different ridings agree to “swap” votes in order to increase the chances of securing a victory in both ridings. It works best for voters who are concerned that someone, not mentioning any names, might become a majority-PM because the Left is a bit scattered these days. For instance, I might be an NDP supporter willing to throw my vote to the Greens or Liberals if it meant securing a victory for a non-Conservative candidate in my riding. In the swap, I offer up my vote to a Liberal or Green in a riding in which an NDP is in a tough race with a CPC candidate.

Vote swaps work best when loads of people get organized. To that end, an enterprising fellow has started a Facebook group to organize one. If you’re interested, sign up here. In the absence of a suitable representative system, this will have to do. For now.

-kvd out


11 thoughts on “What to do with a broken system?

  1. Pretty dumb idea, as there is no guarantee – in the privacy of the voting booth – that either swapper will hold to their “virtue handshake” agreement.

    Actually, I think it will be a wash, as these swappers for vote for their chosen candidate in their riding, and hoping and praying, the “matched swapper” does ditto in theirs too.


  2. The inherent honesty to hold to the deal is assumed, but you’re absolutely right, it’s the weakness in the system. Aside from the whole FPTP, which is weak from top to bottom.

    My riding is pretty much a foregone conclusion, so I’m willing to trade mine in for one elsewhere.


  3. I dunno, Kev, the problem I see with it is it essentially replaces local political choice with gaming the system. My riding is a prime example – the Liberal candidate running, Walter Noel, is IMHO a nonentity, with some veryquestionable judgement , who pretty much got the Liberal nomination by stacking the nomination process with his cronies. As it happens, the NDP candidate is strong and I think he’s going to win, but irregardless, I am not going to vote for the Liberals just to deny the Tories the seat – if 4 years of a Harper majority is what it takes for the Liberals to stop running idiots in my riding, then so be it. Essentially, what you’re telling local NDP candidates is, ‘I’m sure you’re nice people, but I really couldn’t give a fuck about you as an individual – I’ve got to look at the bigger picture.”


  4. Dan,
    That’s what’s fucked about the current system – in one vote you have to pick a local representative, a party, and a PM – it can’t be done. It forces you to decide what is most important to you – local representation or central leadership. Vote swapping is for people for whom the central electoral question is not local representation, but leadership.

    The problem that you’ve identified is inherent in the FPTP electoral system, not vote swapping.


  5. I share Kev’s disdain for the First Past The Post system. I wish a government, with at least a modicum of integrity, would somehow, someway get elected and take us into a proportional representation system. That being said, for the moment we are stuck with what we got – a democracy-like system.

    Vote swapping sounds to me like the latest version of ABH – “Anybody But Harper”; or ABC (Anybody But Conservative), if you prefer. Duncan Cameron comments here: (😉 that ABC voting doesn’t really take us anywhere worth going.

    The NDP is the only party which consistently represents the left in Canada – at least partially – they dilute their stances in the interest of appealing to a broader base of voters. The Bloc leans left, but they are really a francophone nationalist party, which doesn’t represent the interest of majority of canadians. The greens, with the exception of the issue on the environment (not that they’ll be anything but a spoiler anyway), are actually a very conservative party in many ways; and the liberal turkey buzzard gnawed off it’s own left wing in the eighties (there’s a statement there somewhere about flying crooked), to say nothing of Dion’s lackluster performance.

    I guess I tend to agree with Mr. Cameron that you can’t count on the ABC vote to give an ABC result – I don’ think the electoral cooperation exists to make it happen. Maybe that is what the facebook page is all about, I’m not sure.

    On the other hand, Dan DOES have a point about the type of sleazy candidates the other parties sometimes allow to stand up for them – it happens frequently enough, in enough different places, that it shows that all the national parties have a sort of cynical contempt for the common voter. Maybe they should be punished for that, with another Harper Government. Maybe not.

    I like to think that my vote says “I won’t vote for that/ those candidate/s”, as loudly as it says “I will vote for this one”. I think ABC voting and vote-swapping undermine that first part. I, for one, will cast my vote for the party that I think most represents me, and my values… hoping and praying that there aren’t enough jackasses in this country to re-elect Der Harpenfuehrer; but knowing that there probably are.

    Paraphrasing Winston Churchill: A democracy-like system, the worst possible, except all others – unless its an *actual* democratic system.


  6. I’m not sure that there is any electoral system that is without flaws, but that is no excuse for the apparent refusal to explore options that may serve the citizenry better – proportional representation (just as one example), or allowing voters to vote directly for the PM.
    Accepting the problematic nature if what we are currently stuck with, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with vote swapping. Call me an idealist, but my vote is a personal reaffirmation of my political views. As Graven says, I am making a statement. The fact that that statement gets drowned out by an unfair system is unfortunate, but I still have to follow my conscience.


  7. Obviously, I won’t be taking part in this scheme, as I live in a semi-solid NDP riding where the new candidate (Megan Leslie?) faces a bunch of bad jokes (one pending).

    Even if I was in the doldrums of a Liberal riding (sorry, Dartmouthians, I feel for you), I wouldn’t like the vote swap idea at all. As someone who would vote NDP this election, to me the scheme relies too much on the honesty of your average Liberal. After two Red Books and countless money-stealing scandals, I don’t really have a high opinion of the average Liberal’s honesty. What’s to say that the person on the other end of the handshake is going to follow through and vote NDP on my behalf?

    The other problem I have is with the prognostication of just which ridings to apply the swap. There are several “safe” Liberal seats where you could have probably run a dead mule and get said ass elected in the 1990’s, but are they safe now? Dion has the charisma of a dead fish, and his campaign is nothing short of sucktackular. Are ridings that were marginal Liberal victories in the past even in play for them this time around? Are those safe ridings still safe? For that matter, which ridings are potential winners for the NDP? I know of a few ridings I would call safe NDP wins (Halifax, Trinity-Spadina), but not certainties. I find the idea that some facebook dude can sucessfully predict who I would swap with to achieve an ABH victory in two close ridings a bit hard to swallow.

    I think a better tactic is just to hammer Harper continuously on his failings (Listeria, anyone?), keep connecting him to Bush, try to get soundbites from his ministers (the gang of fools) as much as possible, and hope that a large chunk of the knuckledraggers voting conservative either come to their senses or get lost on the way to the voting booth. And campaign for Fair Vote Canada as much as possible in the meantime.


  8. Yeah – I’d be interested in getting a closer look at the originator’s facebook profile – this sounds too much like the ‘tactical voting’ tactic Buzz Hargrove espoused in the last election to get people to switch their vote from NDP to Liberal on the grounds that it was the only way to beat Harper. I’ll also point out that while I agree that FPTP has its flaws – this isn’t anywhere close to a fix, a Liberal government, (which is what fearmongering like this will lead to) is not going to change the system, as far as I know the only party that’s pushing a proportional representation voting system is the NDP, (although the Greens may be doing so as well)


  9. No, it’s certainly no fix, it’s a hack. As briguy says, it’s important to keep hammering Harper on his record, but there’s no reason that doing that would preclude vote swapping. I don’t share his inherent distrust of *all* Liberals, though the idea of putting my “x” next to Michael Savage’s name makes me flinch a bit.

    Course, no one has asked yet, either.


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