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Voting dilemmas [Apr. 10th, 2010|05:20 pm]
This will be my first UK general election so I'm looking at how I want to vote (as I am definitely going to vote).  It is actually quite weird that I don't actually have to vote, but as far as I'm concerned, it is my responsibility as a member of this democracy that I do.

I live in the Glasgow South electorate, which is a very safe Labour seat (it hs been held by Labour since 1979).  Last election the Labour candidate receieved 47.2% of the vote.  The next nearest candidate was the LibDem with 19.0%.  The incumbent member is standing again.  As the system here is "first past the post", the likelihod of any other candidate receiving more votes is almost inconceivable.  It is quite disheartening to think that my vote is almost totally ineffectual.

I don't like the FPTP system.  It is entirely possible (and possibly even likely) that the majority of people may actively not want the candidate who wins.  This seems to be less of a problem in my electorate since nearly half the votes are likely to go to the winning candidate, but it doesn't sit well with me in general.  I also don't lik that "strategic voting" becomes important. 

For example, say Mr A is the favourite, but I don't like him.  My preferred candidate Ms B, but she is not very popular and  Mrs C is more liklely to be able to get more votes than Mr A.  In Australia, I would be able to indicate my preferences, B, C then A.  Assuming B does indeed receive the least number of votes, my vote passes to C and my preference against A is counted in the final tally.  Here I only get to vote for one person.  Do I vote for B, or do I vote for C in the hope that they will get more votes than A?  And how many other people are trying to make this decision, and which way will they go?  If everyone who actually preferes B votes for C, then we have the greatest chance of getting our preferred candidate between A and C.  This somehow feels wrong.  Why should I have to second guess how other people will vote in order to for my vote to count effectively.  It could be worse, what if B drops out of the running in order to try and prevent the split vote, then I don't even get the choice. 

The preferential system may seem more complicated at first glance, which I think is what turns off the UK from making the change.  They even refer to is as the "alternative voting" system, which seems to make it seem even less clear.  But as someone who is trying to make an informed vote, it would certainly be easier if I could simply list my preferences, and know that my vote will be counted the way I want it to be counted. 

Of course, all of this is moot in my particular case, as I don't think there is any combination of candidates that could try for a strategic vote to beat the incumbent.  I also don't dislike the guy we have.  I can almost see why people don't bother; it is all too hard and my vote probably won't change anything anyway.  Given my current feelings of democratic powerlessness, it is hard to raise the motivation to research the candidates (and their parties) that are standing in my electorate. Good thing I've got a few weeks yet to get around to it!