Voting is hard

There’s a Facebook group called Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada, where people in close Conservative battleground ridings, who would prefer to vote for a party other than the one running a close second locally, can “trade” their vote with someone from another riding who supports the party they need to vote for strategically. That person will in turn vote for their first choice, meaning the popular vote for each party will remain the same while possibly reducing the number of Conservatives elected and thus their chance for a majority. The group founder assumes that members are honest, are united in their opposition to Harper above all else, have accurate and timely information on the polls in their riding, and are able to interpret this correctly. I’m doubtful that they’ll be able to meet all these conditions, but even if they do, our voting system is unfortunately not that simple. Vote swapping could potentially reduce the number of Conservative seats in the House but distribute them more evenly amongst the other parties in such a way that the Conservatives end up with a plurality of seats which otherwise would have eluded them.

This is probably not going to happen: so far it looks like the question is whether the Conservatives will win a majority or minority, and whether the NDP will end up as the Official Opposition (bit of a long shot, but plausible). Still, it’s a possibility. Further complicating the question is the fact while only perhaps 50 ridings are in doubt at this point some are three-way fights, something the well-meaning people on Facebook don’t seem to have considered to date.

I wish these folks well, although as I’m sure they’d agree this is no alternative to a reasonable voting system. However, given that about 35% of eligible voters don’t bother to vote, if this Facebook group is an indication and an encouragement of a resurgence of interest in Canadian politics, and if that resurgence is opposed to the Conservative agenda as they expect, it may in fact achieve its ends.