I’ve had several conversations over the last couple of weeks with people who are planning to “vote strategically” in the federal election. Generally this means they’re going to vote Liberal because they think this will keep a Conservative from being elected, and thus keep Stephen Harper from being Prime Minister. I’m sure there are other variations on this, depending on the riding, but it basically boils down to “voting for someone you don’t like so that someone you don’t like more won’t get elected.”
I wish people wouldn’t do this.
I think of election day as a sort of national opportunity to say “this is who we are.” And I take the show of my hand very, very seriously. Seriously enough that voting for someone who I don’t respect, whose ideas I don’t believe in, or who doesn’t reflect my true feelings, would feel like telling a big, public lie.
I think we should vote with our hearts, not while holding our noses, because I think it’s the right thing to do. I think it’s the bedrock on which the entire representative democracy is based.
I also think not voting for someone just because “they don’t have a chance of winning” is a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it doesn’t make a lot of sense: election day isn’t a lottery or a horse race; there’s no upside for backing a winner.
The amazing thing about our electoral system — and I really do think it’s an awesome system that demands our respect — is that it’s a fluid, unpredictable system made up of millions of parts, the outcome of which, polls and pundits aside, is completely up in the air. Up to us.
When you start trying to “game” the system, telling lies about how you really feel with the hopes that enough people will lie with you, you’re perverting that system without truly understanding the potential results.
And in the end, whether you vote Liberal to keep out the Conservatives, or Conservative to keep out the Liberals, or Green to punish the NDP, your vote is going to be used by someone for purposes you didn’t intend — someone, sometime, is going to say “look, 65% of the electorate in my riding supported my plan to outlaw free thought.”
I think the honest, respectful thing to do on polling day is to go behind the screen and pick the person you think should represent your riding in Parliament. I’d like to think that would be obvious.