GE2017: tactical voting indicates our voting system is broken


By Editor in Chief Cameron Broome

TalkPolitics was founded with the aim of tackling the apathy that plagues our democracy. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that first-past-the-post is a broken voting system. Millions of votes are, in effect, ‘wasted’. But the biggest tragedy of all is people are forced to consider voting tactically, rather than for the party whose policies they support the most.

Voters are told by politicians and groups like our own that their vote makes a difference. Unfortunately, while in principle this may be true, in practice it isn’t always. The extent to which a vote makes a difference depends on where you live – it really is a postcode lottery. Why should imaginary political borders determine which votes matter and which don’t?

My home seat is Dewsbury, a marginal seat in West Yorkshire (made more marginal by recent boundary changes). In 2015, 41.8% of voters backed Labour’s Paula Sherriff beating the then MP Simon Reevell, the Conservative candidate, who received 39.1% of vote share.  In marginal seats like my own, realistically, only one of two parties can take the seat. This results in two unfortunate outcomes.

Firstly, thousands of votes are effectively wasted. In my Dewsbury seat, 6,649 people voted for UKIP. What difference did those votes make? None. In fact, UKIP received over 3.9 million across all constituencies. How many seats did they return – just one. It is difficult to argue everyone’s vote matters when there is such a huge disparity between total vote share and number of seats won – what clearly matters most under FPTP is political geography.

Secondly, it forces people to vote tactically. Rather than opt for the party who has the policies that align most with their own, voters are instead forced to choose between what they see as the “least worst” of the two parties most likely to win their seat. People should be free to vote for the party who has the values, beliefs and principles that most align with their own; they shouldn’t be a prisoner to political geography. Thus, tactical voting is indicative of a broken voting system.

In 2011, a UK referendum was held on Alternative Voting; 67.9% of those who voted rejected AV. However, our politics has become increasingly pluralised, and the 2015 general election results further demonstrate that our voting system is unfit for purpose. It’s time to reopen the debate about our voting system.

At TalkPolitics, we do not believe that there will be a perfect voting system; every voting system  has strengths and weaknesses, as articulated in our latest Politics Put Simply article. However, what we are advocating for is a renewed debate about voting systems. We hope that through democratic debate, we can create a voting system better than the one that we have at the moment.

Let’s end the calls for tactical voting. Instead, let’s design a voting system where people can vote for the party that aligns best with their own values, principles and beliefs. 

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