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Strategic voting helps those you want to hurt

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak (Free Press file photo)

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak (Free Press file photo)

Ontario goes to the polls on Thursday after a bitter, nasty campaign dominated increasingly by one topic – strategic voting designed to defeat the party you hate most rather than the one you actually support.

But strategic voting is ironically a misnomer because the results are consistently a big failure.

Despite that, we can expect to see strategic voting promoted here in Metro Vancouver in November’s municipal elections and especially 2015’s federal election.

Some environmental and public advocacy groups have pushed strategic voting in the past – but despite its astonishingly poor record, the same approach is being advocated again in Ontario’s election.

They tried strategic voting to block Stephen Harper in the 2011 election – yet the Conservatives won a majority government.

Despite websites like Catch 22 and Project Democracy combining dire warnings about Harper’s agenda of mayhem along with directions to vote either Liberal or NDP in dozens of ridings, it was obviously a spectacular bust.

Nonetheless, the flawed approach will attempt to stop Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak by steering voters to either Premier Kathleen Wynne’s governing Liberals or Andrea Horwath’s NDP, depending on which appears to have the best chance in each riding.

And Thursday’s “Stop Hudak” campaign will become May 2015’s “Stop Harper” effort, no matter how ineffectual.

The problems with strategic voting are significant. For one, it requires those directing voters to have sophisticated, riding level polling and research in dozens of ridings – they don’t.

In fact, Pundits’ Guide’s Alice Funke pointed out in 2011 that “incompetent and utterly wrong” strategic voting advice substantially helped – not hurt – the Conservatives.

Second – it demands a huge number of voters to cast a ballot for a party they don’t like to stop one they despise.

Trying to use strategic voting to influence election results is like playing blackjack at a poker table – the level of complexity is far beyond the ability of the player – and they’re in the wrong game.

Lastly, voting is your democratic opportunity to make a decision based on your values by picking the candidate and party that can best represent you in elected office.

No one should squander their principles by abandoning the party they actually support.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at Email: Twitter: @BillTieleman  


Would you vote for a party you don’t like to defeat a party you hate or would you vote your heart?

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