How To Vote in 31 Swing Ridings (Maybe) – Some Thoughts on Strategic Voting

Projected Election Results


Strategic voting is a fairly controversial idea – should you support the party/candidate who best represents your views no matter what or do you consider voting for a more ideologically aligned party that’s not your first choice if it might mean keeping one you disagree with more strongly out of power?

In the current Canadian context, this usually means voting for a Liberal or NDP candidate to defeat a Conservative. has just released poll results from 31 swing ridings with their recommendation on which party to support to maximize the chances of defeating the Conservative candidate.

Advantages of Strategic Voting

  • Many “winners” in our first past the post system end up winning with fewer votes than the combined totals of the other candidates in the same riding.  This is especially frustrating in ridings where a Conservative might win by a few hundred votes when the third place party gets thousands.
  • Well-established patterns may exist in certain ridings where, for example, there’s been a long trend of the NDP or Liberals coming in second to a Conservative candidate and the idea is that flipping enough of the third party voters to the second place candidate could topple the usual winner.
  • With our increasing use of technology, it’s easier to get the word out to people to encourage strategic voting in ridings that are projected to be really close

Disadvantages of Strategic Voting

  • Different election issues can cause voters to change their longstanding patterns as we’ve seen with the unexpected breakthroughs for the NDP in both Quebec and Alberta in recent elections.
  • Demographics and numerous other factors will change in ridings between every election which means you can’t use historical patterns to determine what might happen in current elections.
  • Polling is also an imperfect science and often, the “polling” being cited by strategic voting advocates is nothing more than looking at the results of the last election and not much more.
  • The ABC movement (Anybody But Conservative) neglects to acknowledge that the NDP & Liberals are also very different and not-at-all interchangeable.  For example, I’d struggle to vote for the Liberals, even if I knew they were the 1st or 2nd place party in my riding, given their support of Bill C-51.  (Luckily I don’t have to do that but would encourage any Liberal or Green Party supporters in Regina-Qu’Appelle to vote Nial!) 😉

That’s a *very* quick overview off the top of my head and I’m sure there are lots of great sites with better overviews as well as lists of the pros and cons of strategic voting out there.  Will be interesting to see if it’s actually a factor in this election or not.

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