Some Canadians have chosen to vote strategically in the Oct. 14 federal election by placing their vote in a riding where it will make more of an impact. It’s a movement known as vote swapping and it appears to be gathering steam as the general election heads in to the homestretch.
To date, almost 700 Canadians have registered at VotePair.ca to participate in a method of strategic voting that has two goals.
The short-term goal of pair vote, according to founder Gerry Kirk, is to deny Prime Minister Stephen Harper a majority government. The long-term goal is to highlight the need for electoral reform.
Voters are encouraged to sign-up if they feel their ballot will be by going towards a candidate is unlikely to win. Kirk says that six-million votes are wasted in each Canadian federal election in this manner.
“I’m finding that our mode of governance isn’t working,” Kirk said. “We have a system where the majority of people don’t vote for the government in power. When this election came around I was trying to think of a new way to draw attention to voting reform.”
The spotlight on electoral reform comes in the wake of a recent Ontario referendum on electoral reform, which was rejected by the electorate in the 2007 provincial vote.
Kirk set-up a website where citizens can register by listing which riding they are in, which parties they are willing to cast a ballot for, and which party they support the most.
The site will match these people with those in swing ridings where the race is considered too close to call. In essence, a member of a swing riding who is willing to vote for the Green Party, but supports the Conservative Party, would be matched with someone who supports the Green Party, but lives in a riding where the race is tight between the Conservatives and the Liberals.
Person A would agree to vote Green on behalf of person B, who would then vote Conservative on behalf of person A.
Thornhill resident Sivan Nitzan said she plans to participate in vote swapping because she feels her ballot will have more potential impact.
“The party that I am supporting is not the most popular or even the second most popular party in most ridings,” Nitzan said. “It is difficult to have my voice heard (and) vote swapping is a temporary measure put in place until there is a change in the entire dysfunctional (electoral) system.”
Some Canadians are unhappy with the current first-past-the-post electoral system and websites such as voteforenvironment.ca. have popped up, urging voters to measure the government’s record on environmental issues.
The site states that the pro-environment vote will probably be split unless strategic voting is put in to force. The site’s introductory video says that voting strategically is necessary since, “our electoral system hasn’t caught up with Canada’s changing political landscape.”
Despite the enthusiasm of voters such as Nitzan and the legality of strategic voting including vote swapping, Elections Canada spokesperson Grace Lake warns electors to be wary of vote swapping.
“It’s important electors realize that with the secrecy of the vote there is no assurance whether the swap was carried out,” Lake said. “There is no way that anyone can confirm a vote swap.”
Nitzan and Kirk both agree that deception is possible within vote swapping, but believe this method of strategic voting leaves them with nothing to lose. Nitzan is more concerned about her vote being wasted and wants it to count.
Kirk organized vote swapping for this very reason and is not worried about deception.
“It is very much a trust thing … it is worth the risk,” Kirk said. “We trust another inspired voter more than our political process.”