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Archive for October 19th, 2010

Voting for “anyone but the incumbent”

October 19, 2010 @ 12:57 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

I’ve noticed a number of “vote for anyone but the incumbent” campaigns in Ottawa. The premise is that if enough people don’t vote for the incumbent, they won’t win the election (usually true when there’s only a couple of candidates). The problem is that we have a first past the post system where someone can win the election even if they don’t have a majority of the votes — they only have to have more votes than anyone else.

A flawed system, at best, but that’s what we’re stuck with for the time being.

Let’s assume that the results of the election last time were:

  • Joe Blow: 40%
  • Jane Doe: 25%
  • Jason Bourne: 25%
  • James Bond: 10%

Joe Blow is running again, as are the others plus four additional candidates: Ernst Blofeld, Joe Q. Public, Maxwell Smart and Charles Carmichael.

Let’s assume that some people actually like Joe Blow’s track record and are going to vote for him for that reason. Let’s also assume that some people are going to vote for him simply because he is the incumbent and they recognize his name on the ballot. But some of the people who voted for Joe Blow last time are going to follow the “vote for anyone but the incumbent” school of thought and vote for someone else — 12% of voters, in fact. The remaining voters are going to continue voting for the person they believe in, who happens not to be Joe Blow, with the new guys are going to attracting some of the votes away from all of the candidates.

Election Day comes and goes and the results are:

  • Joe Blow: 28%
  • Jane Doe: 23%
  • Jason Bourne: 12%
  • James Bond: 17%
  • Ernst Blofeld: 5%
  • Joe Q. Public: 3%
  • Maxwell Smart: 6%
  • Charles Carmichael: 6%

This time, the incumbent, Joe Blow, wins again, but with 72% of the votes going for “anyone but the incumbent” instead of 60% of the votes like last time. More people don’t like him but he still won. Well, that strategy didn’t work, did it?

If you really do not like the incumbent, then find a more suitable candidate and vote for them. If, after considering all the candidates, the incumbent still tops your list, then you should probably vote for him. If you really don’t like any of the candidates, then perhaps you should have considered running for office.

If you do vote for some random person and that random person happens to win the election then you have no grounds for complaint when the random person jacks up your taxes, supports a new by-law requiring all homeowners to perform weekly sacrifices of baby bunnies and declares every Tuesday to be Walk-like-a-duck-or-else Day.

The organizers of the “vote for anyone but the incumbent” campaigns should have identified a slate of candidates that they support rather than telling people to toss their ballots to the wind. That way they might be more successful in their quest to see new faces on Council.