A common school of thought around election time is that of “There is no point in voting because my vote doesn’t count”; people feel that their voice isn’t heard, particularly if they live in a “safe seat” or an area where the battle for power is between two candidates, neither of whom particularly appeal.
Tactical voting has been around for years. You know the idea; don’t necessarily vote for the party whose policies most closely relate to your views or desires for the country but vote in a way to try to ensure the current party gets removed from (or stays in) power. Vote swapping is simply another element of tactical voting and enables your voice to be heard, albeit not necessarily in your constituency.
Take for example, the Labour held seat of East Ham. Labour are expected to hold on to the seat but with a huge majority of over 60%, if you are a Labour voter, you may worry that your vote will be wasted, that perhaps it would be put to better use elsewhere. At the other end of the scale is Norwich North. Current predictions show that Labour are expected to take this seat from Conservatives with the smallest of margins, less than 1%. If you are a Green voter here, your vote is effectively a vote for the Conservatives due to the nature of the first past the post system we have.
So, what can you do?
Well, in the case above the person who lives in East Ham may well be prepared to ‘swap’ their vote with the person in Norwich North so instead of voting for Labour they can pledge to vote for Green and vice versa. This will give Labour a better chance of taking the Norwich North seat from Conservatives. People can vote tactically with the knowledge that their preferred vote is still being used.
Enter in two websites. VoteSwap has a clear political agenda; it was set up purely to help Labour and Green voters to work together with the aim of removing the Conservatives from power. Here, users enter in their constituency and are then advised which way to vote to make the best use of their vote to remove Conservatives and then pledge to vote the relevant way. SwapMyVote on the other hand, has no political agenda; users can select who their preferred party is (out of all major parties) and who they are prepared to vote for. They are then matched with another person and are encouraged to contact one another through social media, each user pledges to vote for the other person’s party of choice.
I hope the above has made sense? It makes sense in my head but explaining it feels a whole lot more tricky!
Personally, I am still not sure about how I feel about vote swapping. It saddens me that it currently seems to be the only way for so many people to use the power of their vote in the most effective manner, it doesn’t feel all that ethical (although it is perfectly legal). At the same time, people have being voting tactically for years so one is also inclined to think “What’s the problem?”. There is also the thinking that if everyone actually voted for the parties who they believe in then perhaps we would see a shift from our current system which still feels very much a two party battle. Despite all of these thoughts, it IS something I am considering. I feel that vote-swapping (rather than simply pledging to vote differently) is the most effective way to get my voice heard, albeit in an area I do not live in. Where I live, over 60% of votes were effectively discarded in 2010, that is less than 40% of voters actually voted for the winner; that’s enough to make anyone feel rather disheartened.
With less than two weeks to go until the election, I have a whole lot more thinking to do.
What do you think of vote-swapping? Do you live in an area where your preferred vote would count for little and if so would you consider pledging to vote for a different party? I’d love to know your thoughts (particularly as I am being interviewed on Monday morning around this discussion)!