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Bad recommendations from strategic voting websites

One of the main arguments against strategic voting was that polling information could be incorrect. This was true for my riding. The major strategic voting websites, strategicvoting.ca and votetogether.ca, urged voters in the Mission–Matsqui–Fraser Canyon riding to vote NDP. Yet, on voting day, the real competition was between the Conservatives and Liberals.

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By Alex Rake (The Cascade) – Email

Congratulations! Strategic voting worked! Well, mostly.

One of the main arguments against strategic voting was that polling information could be incorrect. This was true for my riding. The major strategic voting websites, strategicvoting.ca and votetogether.ca, urged voters in the Mission–Matsqui–Fraser Canyon riding to vote NDP. Yet, on voting day, the real competition was between the Conservatives and Liberals.

The information on these websites simply wasn’t recent enough. In the two weeks leading up to the election, after the public forums, it seemed pretty clear by word of mouth that most people were either going to vote Conservative or Liberal. Why didn’t strategicoting.ca reflect this? According to their “reason behind the recommendation” page, a huge factor they relied on is previous election results. Since the 2011 election showed a lot of potential in my area for the NDP compared to the Liberals (that is, 10,771 votes versus 2,824), the recommendation was weighted away from the party that actually won. But with four years’ difference between now and then, it would have been wiser to rely more on current polling information.

By polling more often and closer to election time, the data would be more accurate. Of course, this would require a sort of standardization of polls so as not to give inconsistent results. This means understanding who does or does not engage with the polls, what the methods are of gathering data, and how to consolidate polls with differing results.

I don’t regret supporting the movement this election because, for the most part, it worked. Ridings that would have gone to the Conservatives were tipped in another direction and, ultimately, we have a new majority government. The only thing I do regret is taking the websites’ word for it when they said who was likely to win. Understanding the imperfection of the recommendations is the voter’s responsibility, but providing accurate information is on the source.

If Trudeau doesn’t follow up on electoral reform and strategic voting again looks like something necessary, we have to find a way to fix this problem of out-of-date information. More recent and more frequent polling would be a good step, for example. Also, strategic voters ought to be more demanding of their sources for up-to-date recommendations if anything is to change at all. Hopefully it won’t come to that, though, because we shouldn’t need to vote strategically. We need a new, more democratic electoral system that makes strategic voting ridiculous. Otherwise, we’ll just play the same game over and over again.

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