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Voting

06 March 201304:48PMrants

I'm going to cut to the chase. This is pretty specifically directed at someone. You know who you are. I didn't really have anywhere else to put this, and I needed to write it down before I forgot it. And, y'know, it's pretty interesting. Anyway, if you want me to take this down, just let me know.

So the argument goes something like: "I live in a safe seat, that won't change. My vote doesn't matter. No matter how I vote, my vote's going to end up with a party I don't like anyway."

It took me a while to get to the bottom of why exactly I find this problematic, and I think I've got it. I haven't done a very good job of articulating it when I try explain it in actual discussion, but I'm gonna see if I can nail the sucker down with copious editing.

First there's the safe seat thing, which basically boils down to this: If opinions didn't change, then we wouldn't bother holding elections. Marginal seats aren't just magically assigned. Seats change hands, or not, based on the preferences of the electorate changing. And voting - specifically here, against the incumbent - is how that happens. So, go do that.

(There's a corollary to that of course. Just because someone's disposed towards the incumbent doesn't make their vote invalid. Safe seats are the way they are because they, I don't know, actually represent the opinion of the electorate or something? When you get right down to it living with the will of the majority has been the pointy end of democracy for about 2500 years. But I'm going to skim over that.)

Second is this idea about your vote ending up with the party you dislike anyway. Which is partly true, but partly not. The whole point of preferential transferrable voting is to ask you "Which of these would you prefer" all the way down the ballot. So that, should your preference be eliminated, you can indicate which of those remaining you would prefer, on the basis that given a choice you're always going to prefer one or the other. Which means that as you work your way down the numbers you go from "A and B are both cool! But A is slightly cooler!" to "I guess this is the lesser of two evils" to "Jesus H. Christ Fuck No Anything But That." That's your last preference. It means that your vote will be allocated one by one to every other choice until only two remain. And then it will be allocated to the other guy. If that guy is knocked out, I guess technically and philosophically your vote ends up with him, but it doesn't matter because every single other candidate was eliminated. Your vote has counted in every single contest against him, and he still won.

Okay, I think I get where you're coming from. At its core it's the same basic frustration that I skimmed over before but that now seems pretty important: That when you live in a democracy, you have to put up with the will of the majority, even when that majority seems fundamentally opposed to what you believe in. The thing that's soul-grinding isn't the technicalities of safe seats and transferrable voting, it's that when you get right down to it, you have to go along with the majority, and sometimes that sucks.

As there pretty much always seems to be with this stuff though, there's another way of seeing it. The whole process of voting is eventually one of compromise. You trade a few of your more extreme ideas, and the guys at the other end trade in a few of theirs, and incrementally, you reach a solution that everyone can kind of agree on.

It sounds horrifically cliched, but a vote is your chance to have an effect on that compromise, to pull society just a little bit more towards what you agree with. And, if you're so fundamentally dissatisfied with the options presented to you at this point in the process, then do something about it. The system is ultimately pragmatic. Politicians, parties, policy - all of it follows the votes. If you can find enough people, the system will take notice, because that's what it's designed to do.

Of course, by the same token, if you'd rather just roll apathetically on the floor complaining, that works too. Just don't expect anything to, y'know, actually happen.

< So Uni's back. This thing that I am doing is weird. >