The sudden appearance of a Facebook group called “Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada” has me torn. Frankly, I’m opposed to strategic voting: it distorts an already distorted-enough electoral process and mostly it doesn’t work. Vote swapping is meant to allow people to vote strategically while still voting their consciences. You agree to hold your nose and mark the ballot for a candidate you don’t truly support, with the agreement that someone else in another riding will do the same, with the common goal of influencing the larger party-level results. Let’s leave aside for a moment that this works (or fails to work) entirely on the honour system, and that people may not actually follow through. What this movement really illustrates is the need to scrap our perverse First-Past-The-Post electoral system.
Vote swapping is just a symptom of a deeper problem: for most people in the country, it doesn’t matter a whit who they vote for. At the riding level, their votes have no effect on their parliamentary representation, because MPs are routinely elected after receiving just a third of the votes cast. People are trying to find their own ways to game the system so that their votes actually have an impact, and vote-swapping is one of those ways. But it’s not a real solution. What we need is a well-thought-through proportional voting system that produces a parliament that actually represents the opinion of the voters. There’s a Faceboook group for that, too.