Facebook group provides vote swap in federal election

SASKATOON - Jenna Little wants to mark her ballot for the Green party, but she says she doesn't want to waste her vote.

So the woman from Mississauga, Ont., has joined a group on Facebook to swap votes with someone in another Ontario riding during next month's federal election.

"I just met my match on the site," the 24-year-old paralegal said Thursday.

"She's from London, (Ont.). She's willing to vote Green if someone else will vote Liberal and Mississauga just happens to need a Liberal vote, so I'll go Liberal."

More than 350 people from across the country had become members of the "Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada" group as of Thursday afternoon. The group was created Wednesday morning.
Alongside a grinning, flag-waving beaver, the site states: "Stop Harper and advance a progressive agenda without betraying your personal beliefs."

Mat Savelli from Hamilton, Ont., said he started the group to keep Stephen Harper and the Conservatives from winning a majority government.

The website lists 41 ridings that will likely be close battlegrounds, such as Parry Sound-Muskoka in Ontario, Vancouver Island North in British Columbia and Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in Saskatchewan.

Conservative MP Tony Clement won the Parry Sound riding in the last election by a slim margin of 28 votes.

"If you could just switch 28 NDP supporters or Green supporters and get them to vote Liberal, that would have been one less seat for the Conservatives," said Savelli, who is now in Romania working on his PhD in history, but plans on voting from abroad.

He said a handful of swaps have already been agreed to on the site, which runs strictly on the "honour system."

He expects most people are waiting until the week before the election to assess the polls and make a decision

"If we could change the results in one riding to overturn a Conservative victory that would be massive," Savelli said. "But more than anything, I want people to be able to continue to support smaller parties.

"One of Canada's greatest electoral features is the fact that we have a multi-party system."
Strategic voting, or tactical voting, is nothing new in Canadian politics.

In the 2006 federal election, Canadian Autoworkers president and NDP supporter Buzz Hargrove created a stir when he asked traditional NDP voters to cast their ballots for Liberal candidates in ridings where the Liberals had a better shot at beating the Conservatives.

The Facebook group takes the idea one step further, formalizing the process.
Savelli said he got the vote swapping idea from American friends, who watched "vote pairing" grow popular on various websites starting during the 2000 presidential election campaign.

The VotePair website boasts that it had nearly 30,000 members and 2,700 voting pairs during the 2004 presidential race.

Despite protests and attempts to close such sites down in the United States, American courts have cleared the way for the practice.

Vote swapping is also popular in the United Kingdom.
Camille Labchuk, a press secretary for the Greens, said she was not aware of vote swapping and the party will not be promoting it.

The Canada Elections Act states it is an offence to offer or take a bribe for a vote, or improperly provide or be in the possession of a ballot. A spokeswoman for Elections Canada said she could not comment further on the issue.

But David McGrane, a political studies professor at the University of Saskatchewan, sees nothing legally wrong with vote swapping.

There is a risk, however, that the scheme will backfire on voters.
"Strategic voting is extremely difficult to do, because what you're basically trying to do is predict the future," he said. "I always say vote for who you actually believe in. Let the chips fall where they may."

The fact that people are moving toward more formalized strategic voting may point to the need for electoral reform, McGrane said.

One of the solutions would proportional representation - in which the popular vote determines how many seats a party gets in the House of Commons.

Some provinces have held referendums on different types of electoral reform but they have all failed.
"The only way you can get away from the wasted vote is through electoral reform."

here is a link http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=25808609138 (external - login to view)
ultimately, I'd never trust this kind of scheme. By agreeing falsely to swap a vote, someone can essentially double the stroke they carry in this election. What's to hold them accountable? And if they feel that you were going to waste your vote anyway, and that their party truly deserves the extra vote, then it would be easy to rationalize it away to themselves.
Actually I was shocked to see this... reason why I posted it.

If this isn't illegal, it's unethical, IMO.

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