Strategic voting refers to voting for the candidate most likely to beat the one you don’t like in order to make your vote count for more. There are all sorts of websites set up to try to make this kind of voting as easy as possible for you. However, a really good voting strategy involves a little more complexity than just choosing the most popular lesser evil.
The first thing you want to do is figure out the popularity of each candidate in your riding. Even though your vote no longer contributes to parties’ election funding
, showing your support to the party you like by giving them your vote can still help increase their legitimacy, and that’s worth quite a lot – your vote always counts, even if your candidate won’t win because of it. The more of the popular vote they manage to secure, the more seriously other parties have to take them – this is particularly important for historically smaller parties like the Green Party, which frequently gets left out of debates and interviews. If you know that the candidate you dislike is unlikely to win anyway, then go ahead and vote for the party or candidate you like the best! Sometimes “strategic voting” isn’t necessary.
If you find that strategic voting may be necessary in your riding, then you can consider voting for the most popular lesser evil, but donating to or buying a membership for the party or candidate you actually like. More registered members means more legitimacy, and more campaign money means better advertising and lobbying efforts so that their policy ideas can reach more minds and have more influence over the more popular parties’ actions.
You can also write to the candidates and their party leaders, and pressure them to consider the platform points you support from the party you wish you could vote for. Even if a candidate is not going to win, their ideas, if popular enough, can still influence the behavior of other candidates and their parties, during the election and after. This kind of citizen lobbying can do a lot more than you realize, especially if a lot of people engage in it! It’s also free – all you need is an e-mail address.
There are a few ways to figure out candidate popularity, and I recommend using them all for the most accurate results.
1. Look at polls – multiple ones, since a single poll is rarely accurate on its own.
2. Take a walk around your riding and see which way it’s leaning based on lawn signs. Anyone with non-PC signs, or signs supporting CBC, public libraries, or other publicly funded operations, probably won’t vote PC (for example). If there is almost no signage supporting the party you dislike (or its policies), then they’re highly unlikely to win that riding and you can feel pretty safe voting for whoever you want.
3. Consider your riding’s demographics. Is it mostly old white people? Mostly students? Young families? Immigrants? Old and/or well-off white people and fundamentalist Christian families tend to vote for the most “conservative” candidate available (sorry for overgeneralizing, old white people and Christians). My riding growing up was mostly young families and students, and that riding has been pretty strongly held by the NDP for a pretty long time. My current riding is mostly professionals, immigrant families, and low income/single parent families, so it’s unsurprising that the Liberal party has held it for some time, and since the Liberals have been slowly falling out of favour with their historic voting base at other electoral levels, I wasn’t much surprised when they were ousted and replaced by a NDP candidate in the recent Provincial election. Demographics can tell you a lot about how your riding will vote.
*Remember that new seats have been added and federal riding boundaries
have changed this year, which could change your riding’s historic demographics, and therefore it’s historic voting habits.
4. Check out the parties or platforms of other successful politicians in your riding. In Edmonton, we had provincial and municipal elections fairly recently, so their results can serve as a good test for how your riding votes – who is your MP, City Councillor, and School Board Trustee? The kinds of platforms they ran on will tell you how your riding likes to vote. Sometimes you can even see how many votes each candidate received, so you can tell how close (or not) their particular race was, although the 2015 Electoral report for the Provincial election hasn’t been released yet so you’ll just have to settle for knowing who the winner was.