I’ll avoid, for the moment, discussing here the broken nature of our electoral system that leads to such choices…
Voting Your ConscienceIt’s never a mistake to vote your conscience — to vote for the candidate who best represents your values — even if you expect them to “not have a chance”. Even if they don't win, showing support for those candidates shows which positions have support and does a couple things:
- It shows those elected which types of voters they need to appeal to more.
When the Alberta Greens saw significant increases in percentage of vote (even though we didn’t win seats from those votes) there was a corresponding increase in some of the green policies being adopted by the provincial government — a prime example being the grizzly bear hunt ban. Subsequently, when the Alberta Greens were taken over and shut down (the takeover was led by a fellow who is now a Wildrose candidate, make of that what you will), there was a corresponding backtracking on those policies — in this example, the grizzly hunt ban was lifted.
Even parties that don’t win can affect policies because the winning party wants to get some of those votes in the subsequent election.
- People who vote mostly vote for who they think can win. A party that receives increasing votes in an election stands a much better chance in the next election because more people will think they have a chance of winning. It’s not good that so many people vote that way, but it’s reality.
So, we’re not just voting for this election, but for future elections, too, where there will hopefully be better chances of people we support winning.
Strategic VotingAll that said, there are times where a “hold your nose” strategic vote may be your best choice.
I once (just once) voted for a federal Progressive Conservative candidate, Joe Clark, in order to prevent the election of a Reform/Alliance candidate. Clark was definitely on the “Red Tory” side of that party (before it was taken over by Reform/Alliance), and even served as parade marshall for the Calgary Pride Parade one year — so it wasn’t an utterly heinous choice.
So, what should one do?In the end, both the strategic and conscience votes have an impact — so neither can be dismissed out of hand as invalid choices in our current system. It’s up to you, as an individual citizen, to make the hard decision which of the possible outcomes is the better focus for your vote.
Even when it doesn’t seem like it, when the media and leading parties try to marginalize diverse opinions, all of our votes do actually make a difference.