Friday, May 1, 2009

Why I'm Voting for BC-STV May 12 - NUANCES

Of all the reasons given for supporting the proposed new electoral system for British Columbia, I haven't heard much at all about my favourite. It is voter self-expression.

Under First Past the Post (our current system), you get to vote for one choice for an MLA, and if you want to be a strategic voter, then you are always honour bound to vote for the candidate you think can beat the candidate you fear or mistrust the most. So, say you don't want the Liberals to get in again, you think well I have to vote for the NDP because if I vote for a weaker party, I'll be throwing away my vote.

If you're not a strategic voter, under first past the post, you can express that you really resonate to the message of the Work Less Party, for example, and devil-take the results. But if you're one of only maybe 300 people who vote for that party, you'll feel really marginalized - you'll have no way to know how many voters love the idea of reducing the work week and spreading the jobs around more. And neither will any of the political parties.

Strategic or unstrategic, in either case, you're going to have some cognitive dissonance; and to resolve that, you basically have one choice - to become more cynical. Because you have to choose between voting your feelings and being "practical." And being practical means you have to choose a party you are not very enthusiastic about just at the moment, to keep a party you dislike from getting in.

If you get cynical enough, then you have one more choice. You can stay home from the polls altogether, and a lot of people do that. And then everyone says "look, the public doesn't even care who gets chosen - they're not interested in politics."

But say we actually pass the BC-STV. Opponents say that in countries where it's used, the major parties still win just about all the seats all the time, so it doesn't make any difference. But what they're not looking at is the information that the voters can pass on to the people who do get elected, and to each other, through the voting process.

If you were to choose a Workless Party candidate first, and a Marijuana Party candidate second, and an NDP candidate third and the Green Party candidate 4th, for example, you'd be contributing to a statistical record with nuances. It could could show if there's a public inclination towards cutting the work week and legalising pot; yet, because neither of those candidates would get elected (not soon, anyway), your vote would still roll over to support organised labour against the free-traders. You could even vote for most or all the NDP candidates running in your riding and if the NDP got more than enough votes to elect their candidates then part of your vote would still be left over to help elect the first Green to the provincial legislature. Strategic voting would be really strategic then, in more ways than one.

1 comment: