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Friday, February 25, 2011

JC Skinner's guide to PR-STV tactical voting

Sorry, should have got this up earlier. Hopefully it'll still reach a few people before the voting closes.

1. As John Waters says, vote all the way down the list of candidates to potentially maximise the use of your vote.

2. In practice, you actually do the opposite. This means counting the number of candidates on the ballot and then voting all the way up from that number to 1. If there are 12 candidates, you find the one you hate the most and least wish to see elected and put the number 12 next to their name. Then you find the next most loathed, and they get number 11. And so on, till you get to number 1.

Do this carefully, and if you get it wrong, ask for an eraser or a new ballot paper from those in the polling station, telling them you made a mistake. Don't put a messed up ballot or an ambiguous one in the box or it will be discounted. Check over your vote to make sure all numbers are accounted for and each one only once. Don't miss out preference number 3 and have two number 4s for example.

3. If you want to vote tactically, do your homework. Check out bookie odds, like Paddy Power, or constituency profiles such as are in local papers, the Irish Times, etc, to see who is most favoured to be returned.

Let's say you want to punish Fianna Fail and they're running two candidates in your constituency. Obviously, you want to put them last and second last on your ballot. But in which order? In the order so that the least likely of the two candidates is higher placed. So do your homework to establish, within parties, which candidates have the best chance of election.

But what if one of them is likely to get a seat and the other has little hope? Then you reverse the order. Only do this if you're sure that one of them is getting in, though. In cases (FF in Dun Laoghaire is one) where there is going to be one candidate elected from a party but it's unclear which, vote according to your own preferences.

4. This works positively too. Let's say you're a Labour voter. If they're running two candidates in your area, you want to put them 1 and 2. But in which order? Put the least likely candidate higher, since the preference will keep them in the game longer. If he does drop out, your vote will then drop down to bolster the other Labour candidate.

5. Consider saving the deposits of brave independents who have no chance of winning a seat. They've done what you and I didn't have the stones to do - put their money and neck on the line, and tried to take on the big boys in a David and Goliath struggle that they cannot win, just to make their point. If there are two or three of these in your constituency, they'll be the first ones to be eliminated.

But if they get sufficient preferences, they'll at least get their deposit back. Once they are eliminated, your vote can then drop down to the candidates you actually want to see elected. So consider giving your number one to the brave independent with no chance of election. It costs you nothing, voting wise, as your vote will remain in play. But it could save them their money.

6. Don't think locally - think nationally. These are Dail elections, not a popularity X-factor vote on which gombeen is most likely to fix the road. Currently, this means your choice is between three options - Fine Gael, Fine Gael and Labour, or Fine Gael minority with Independent support. (Fine Gael and Green or Fine Gael and Sinn Fein are both extremely unlikely, and anything involving Fianna Fail is a non-runner.)

So, if you want to see a Fine Gael government without Labour, Labour candidates should go below Fianna Fail ones and everyone else on your ballot. Equally, if you want to see Labour in government and do not wish to see a Blueshirt only government, you want to put Labour candidates as high up as possible, and the Fine Gael ones below Fianna Fail, Christian Solidarity and everyone else.

7. Punish incompetence, corruption and criminality. If one of your local candidates was part of the last corrupt government that sold out the nation to benefit bankers, punish them for it. If your local TD is a known Independent gombeen man who propped the government up in order to play the big shot locally, punish them for it.

Only if we punish these people, not only by de-selecting them but also by giving them the smallest number of votes possible, will they begin to understand that such venality is no longer to be tolerated by the Irish electorate.

8. Don't be too concerned about giving higher preferences to distasteful parties. If you follow the tips above, you may disconcertingly find people like Christian Solidarity or Sinn Fein unusually high on your ballot. Don't worry too much about this. They're not getting elected (caveat for those dozen or so constituencies where there is a Shinner in the mix) and it's actually more important to make your vote work for you hard in the manner described above than to be overly worried about giving a looney your number 6 preference.

After all, mad as a brush and potentially dangerous they may well be, but they aren't getting elected and even if they did they could not do as much damage to this state as was just done by the last government.

9. As we say in the North, vote early and vote often! Exercise your democratic right today, because if you don't you've no right to complain later. Make sure others do too. Give people a lift to the polling station if you can. Help old people out to vote (unless they're FF tribalists, in which case, feel free to barricade them in for the day!)

Most of the planet don't have the democracy we do. They're on the streets risking their lives for it all over North Africa right now. So don't let the incompetence and corruption of our politicians jaundice you and make you apathetic about the system. It's a good system but you have to use it and you have to make it work for you. Hopefully this post will help you do just that.

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