Saturday, October 11, 2008


Being as she is an anarchist Molly does not advocate voting in any elections. All that being said the worst possible outcome of the coming Canadian elections would be a majority Conservative government, for many and sundry reasons. A minority government, of any stripe, would be preferable. Minority governments do the least harm, and have to take many more interests into account than majority ones do.

In the upcoming Canadian elections there will undoubtedly be the usual vote split, with about 1/3rd of those who vote electing the government. Given the usual level of abstention this will mean that the so-called "mandate" of any future government will represent the temporary wishes of about 1/4 of the population. Other countries have put in place various methods of "proportional representation" which is much more democratic than our Canadian system.

Because of the immense potential of the present governing party, the party of Sneaky Stevie, to do great harm in these perilous economic times, in pursuit of ideological goals, a movement for 'Strategic Voting' has arisen, a movement of "vote swapping" if you will. The following article from the online Canadian news magazine 'The Tyee'

Strategic Voting 2.0
Easier now to make informed decision. :
How the web has changed our ability to target, and swap, votes.
Times have changed for voters, especially those on the fragmented progressive side of the Canadian political spectrum.

The electoral experts like to point out that "strategic voting" never worked. Historically, it meant depriving your favourite party of a vote, and instead simply voting for the non-Conservative party that was highest ranked nationally.

For decades, at the federal level, that meant voting Liberal. The federal Liberals knew this, and it allowed them to steer further to the right than they otherwise could have.

This version of "strategic voting" wasn't very strategic at all -- hence the quotation marks. It was a mug's game, and most progressives rightly rejected it.
Enter the Internet
Two key developments have changed this, and now truly strategic voting (no quotation marks) is possible. And a large number of Canadians have begun to do it.

One of those key developments is a vastly increased ability to find and communicate with people of shared interests -- via the Internet.

I won't go into the various means -- chat rooms, social networking sites, etc. Suffice it to say, these means are also available to voters. And voters who share an interest in defeating Stephen Harper can now find and communicate with one another.

The other key development is the capacity to broadcast information cheaply and instantaneously, again via the Internet. Formerly the preserve of the media establishment, broadcast communication is now available to anyone, even those who oppose the establishment.

This capacity is now being combined with widely available public opinion polls, which are being carried out with increasing frequency. This is allowing voters in every riding to access the best possible information about which local candidate is most likely to defeat the local Conservative.

Social networking and cheap information broadcasting have changed strategic voting forever. It is no longer a mug's game.
Picking a winner
In the current election, the information broadcasting website voteforenvironment received over a million hits in just two weeks of existence. This website provides a crucial piece of information for strategic voters -- voter intention analysis on a riding-by-riding basis.

In other words, voters can see which candidate in their riding is most likely to beat the Conservative candidate. So, instead of automatically voting Liberal just because they are the second best party nationally, they can actually pick a progressive winner in their riding.

This doesn't automatically result in Liberals taking seats away from other progressive parties, as was the case in the bad old days. As the website shows, this strategy would actually result in increases in seat counts for all of the opposition parties.

The site is updated often with new polling information, and shows that the Conservatives could lose a number of key seats in this election through strategic voting. In theory, if enough people did it, the Conservatives could actually lose the election altogether.
Supporting your favourite
A concern remains, however. People with strong party loyalty don't want their party to lose a vote.

Now, those people can find like-minded partisans of other parties across Canada and swap votes with them. This is where the social networking sites come into play. Here's how it works.

S uppose you're an NDP supporter in a riding where the Liberal candidate is a close second to the Conservative. And a Liberal supporter lives in a riding where the NDP candidate is most likely to unseat a Tory.

You meet on a vote-swap website, and agree to hold your respective noses. You each vote for the local candidate that could beat the Conservative.

You have voted strategically in your riding, and your favourite party hasn't lost a vote. In fact, it gets a vote where it actually counts -- where it could result in a victory. Ditto for your counterpart.

The huge social networking site, Facebook, has an Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada group. It's accessible here, here, and here (links available only if you're registered with Facebook). You can also vote strategically without having to join Facebook, at http// This site is not specifically anti-Harper, but it does the trick.
Intelligent vote-swapping
Despite the evolution of the Internet, there are still some old-school "experts" who haven't yet adjusted to the new reality. They argue that strategic voting hurts your favourite party, and won't work against the Conservatives.

They are wrong on both points. Intelligent vote-swapping gives votes to your favourite party where those votes count, and would reduce the Conservatives seat count.

In fact, it could swing the next election if Stephen Harper is still the Conservative leader. With more than just a few weeks to organize, vote-swapping could well result in a Conservative rout.

Of course, strategic voting is only necessary because Canada still suffers under the first-past-the-post system. Few countries still have this system; the vast majority have opted for the more democratic system of proportional representation. And no doubt this will be the next evolution in strategic voting.

But in the meantime, Canadian progressives are adopting a do-it-yourself form of proportional representation. They are already moving toward strategic voting.

As with many social innovations, they're doing it because they can. And despite what the "experts" say.
As she has said before, Molly is not voting in this election, as she has not voted for decades. I am, however, doubtful that any anarchist "Don't Vote" campaign could have any real effect at the present time because of the small size of the Canadian anarchist movement. Still.. not voting is a visible sign of what anarchism is. Anarchists have to make it plain that they are not just one more contender for power, that the very essence of anarchism means that they are something different from "politicians". In light of this here is Molly's public service list of websites that either advocate strategic voting or give information on it. Use it as you will.
Once more, Molly advocates that anarchists don't vote except in the most extreme situations because we have to make it plain that we are not contenders for power. For the average Joe, however, the situation is quite different. Elections Canada had a "hairy fit" about the growth of these strategic voting sites, but they backed off from trying to outlaw them. It would have made the absurdity of electing a new set of dictators every few years, with the campaigns unwillingly financed out of the public purse too obvious. Fear can produce wonderful results. Not that the powers that be aren't very willing to try and restrict "democracy" to their own narrow definition, but in this case they had to back off. Look at the above sites and see if you like what they advocate. Realize that the anarchist definition of democracy means a lot more- direct democracy- than what is advocated on these sites or even proportional representation.

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