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Strategic Voting In The 2015 Federal Election: A Complete Guide (ANALYSIS)

We're not saying you should do it but, if you must, here are some ridings where it could make a difference.

For many people, their vote will likely not make any difference on Oct. 19.

Because of how our system works, there are many electoral districts where some candidates have no realistic chance of winning. Even worse, in many instances, vote splitting could occur that would allow one candidate to win despite there being a large majority of voters who favoured other candidates.

Situations also occur in which some voters would rather vote against one candidate rather than for another one. For instance, a recent poll by Léger found that as much as 31 per cent of voters were voting against a candidate. Specifically for this election, there are many voters who simply want to vote against Stephen Harper and the Conservatives (the so-called ABC movement).

For all these reasons (and more), some people consider voting strategically. This means not voting for their top choice but for another candidate they consider more likely to win.

Voting strategically is, however, difficult and uncertain. You can never be completely sure that it will work. Not only do you need to know the current voting intentions in your riding (this is the part where we can help, with our projections), it also requires many other people to do the same thing as you. The latter part requires a level of coordination that makes the effectiveness of strategic voting doubtful. There are, however, resources dedicated to helping this cause, such as Strategic Voting 2015 or Vote Swap.

We should also mention that, beyond the low likelihood of success of voting strategically, we don't necessarily think people should do it. This article therefore shouldn't be seen as an endorsement of this practice. We understand the desire for doing it, as our electoral system is indeed frustrating at times, but remember that voting is about more than picking the winner.

Ridings where strategic voting might have potential

So, when could voting strategically work? We need to establish some parameters. We'll look at ridings where there is a race between two or more candidates — a riding where the winner is projected to take more than 50 per cent of the vote is obviously not a candidate for strategic voting.

A close race is defined, for the purpose of this guide, as a riding where the winner has less than an 80 per cent chance of winning, while the closer candidate is at least at 20-25 per cent. In term of voting intentions, this usually means races where the gap is five points or less. As stated before, the level of coordination required for strategic voting to be effective means that we should restrict our analysis to a small set of ridings. Strategic voting won't prevent a victory by a candidate leading by 20 points.

We also list a riding as being worth voting strategically only for voters whose favoured party has either no or a very small chance of winning. A riding with a tight three-way race doesn't qualify. In these situations, even if your favourite candidate is currently third, you should vote according to your top choice. We are talking here of having way less than a five per cent chance.

Additionally, we consider a riding only if there are enough potential voters who could vote strategically. For instance, a riding where the Liberal candidate is at 40 per cent, the Conservative at 35 per cent and the NDP at five doesn't qualify — you'd literally need every NDP voter to vote strategically. This is a fraction way too high to be realistic.

Finally, it's important to note that we aren't looking to change the composition of the House of Commons in any systematic way. Specifically, we aren't simply looking at situations where Liberals and NDP voters could coordinate to defeat a Conservative one.

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