22 July 2021

The Value of your vote


The Value of your vote


Topic by Alberto

Essay by Lawrence


A search for the discussion subject results in many links on the sale of votes in many countries especially in Asia although not exclusively. Another stream of links concerns the US election system of electoral colleges (not the only country) electing the President rather than by the direct vote of the electorate. Hence, the value of the vote of the individual stops at the Electoral College.


The value we are interested in is the “persuading power” of the vote. In other words what are the chances that my single vote can influence the outcome of the election which I believe would be the correct outcome. And when the outcome of an election is not the one we want some people lose faith in the electoral process and may even end up not voting in future elections.


Assuming, therefore, that the elections are not rigged or manipulated, the value of a vote in a fair election is the same as the vote of the person next door. But the persuading power of the vote is not in voting who we wish for, but the power of the vote is released when it is used tactically.


Tactical voting is when we vote in a constituency to oust or elect a candidate who might not be our first choice but the best choice to get rid of a politician we do not like. This is very effective in electoral system based on the first past the post. That is, the elected candidate would be the one with the most votes but not necessarily the majority of votes.


So when parties and independent candidates decide to cooperate together to oust an incumbent, they do so by only fielding a candidate from the party or group most likely to win. This has been successfully employed in the UK recently to deprive the government from some seats in parliament. In the by election when the smaller parties did not employ tactical voting the government won the by election.


Tactical voting is a form of ganging up against an undesirable candidate or party who might command a simple majority but not necessary an absolute majority if the other parties did not cooperate together. But it might be argued that this works when no one candidate can achieve an absolute majority. Under the American system, where for practical purposes there are only two parties, it is not feasible to use tactical voting. Tactical voting depends on shifting a small majority to the desired candidate. As I said this works well in the UK because although the UK has a two party system there are enough political groups at the local level to prevent an absolute majority.


Under a tactical voting strategy one’s vote has more persuading power than a vote for one’s preferred candidate. Although this strategy works, it is very difficult to get the different groups to cooperate with each other. Cooperation in politics is very difficult to achieve.


It is commonly believed that a proportional representation electoral system is much fairer since as the name implies it elects candidates from diverse and different interest groups. Under a PR system one’s vote passes on to the next choice on our ballot paper when the first choice gains enough votes to be elected.


But the PR system is not free of serious drawbacks. The most important drawback is that a PR system cannot prevent a single party from gaining absolute power in parliament. This is especially true when there is a huge disparity between two parties and the rest of the political groupings. Whilst tactical voting can also work under a PR system, the chances are that the persuading power of our vote will be diluted when parties of the same ideology split from one another. The more parties there are in a PR system the more diluted the value of our vote becomes. This is partly because there are not enough like minded people voting for the same group.


The idea that our vote is not worth anything or we cannot change things with our vote is false and dangerous thinking. Many a dictator was elected because people thought there was nothing they can do.


If how we cast our vote determines the persuading power value of the vote, then surely our mind set about voting must also determine the value of our vote. Uncast votes do not have a value at all and those who did not vote can hardly complain about the resulting political situation.


People who vote on party lines, might be justified to favour one party and not another, but the success of our party being elected depends on enough swing voters voting for our party and not the competition. But our vote can have null value when our party splits away from its ideological partners. Groups who think they can revolutionise the world by splitting away from the parent political group are disillusioned on one hand and arrogant on the other.


Arrogant because they think they can change the world when they cannot even change their colleagues inside their party, and they are disillusioned because they are putting too much unreasonable trust in the voters.


Finally, the value of our vote also depends on whether we are good at evaluating the facts or whether we are easily infected by false propaganda.


Best Lawrence


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