Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dear Joe Pantalone supporters: Don't vote strategically. Do vote rationally

Strategic voting is a term that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I get it. I'm not a big fan of it myself because I've seen it backfire. Some NDP supporters voting in the 2004 election, for instance, voted Liberal "strategically" and ended up helping a Conservative get elected.

I am a big believer in voting rationally, however, with a full understanding of how the electoral system you are participating in works.

Which brings us to the Toronto municipal election 2010. Here is a hypothetical situation I would like to ask all Joe Pantalone supporters to consider.

Imagine, please, that we had a more rational electoral system for determining the mayor of Toronto - one involving run-off elections.

In this Torontopia, all candidates would stay in the mayoral race until election day. Then, if no single candidate got more than 50% of the vote, we'd lop off the candidate(s) who got the least votes and head back to the polls. This process would be repeated until a candidate for mayor got more than 50% of the votes - and we'd have a mayor who the majority of voting Torontonians could at least stomach.

OK, now imagine we have this system in place and there was an election today and the results were exactly what the latest Nanos poll suggests:

Rob Ford: 43.9%
George Smitherman: 40.5%
Joe Pantalone: 15%

Now, in this hypothetical Toronto, Pantalone would be removed from the list of candidates for mayor and a final vote would held.

My question to Pantalone supporters is: What would you do in this situation?

Would you go and cast a vote in this final election?

Or would you stay home and not vote for either Ford or Smitherman?

Think it over.

OK, now let's return to real Toronto with its actual, unideal electoral system with your answers.

If you would not vote in Torontopia's final round of voting between Ford and Smitherman, then by all means go out and vote for Joe Pantalone on election day in real-life Toronto.

If, however, you would vote for Smitherman over Ford, or Ford over Smitherman in the Torontopia election, then you really should vote for that person - either Ford or Smitherman - in the upcoming election in real-life Toronto.

In real-life Toronto, there are no run-off elections, but we do have polls that function as unideal substitutes. They're why Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thompson have dropped out.

Polls are not 100% accurate, of course, but it's fair to say that it is almost impossible for Pantalone to actually win this election. Something really significant would have to happen between now and election day.

There's nothing wrong with parking your support with Pantalone and waiting for something really significant to happen in those days, of course.

If nothing really significant does happen, however, then treat this election as a final round of voting after a series of run-offs. You won't be voting "strategically"; you'll be voting rationally.

Now, I would never disrespect anyone who votes for Joe Pantalone fully cognizant of the limitations of our electoral system; a vote is a personal choice and you may get a personal sense of satisfaction out of casting a ballot for him. It may be a protest. It may be a performance. You may just find it more fun than staying home (or a kick in the Pants).

But if you would vote in the hypothetical vote just between Ford and Smitherman that I outlined above, then please don't vote for Pantalone. That would be a waste of your vote.