What Is Tactical Voting And How Can I Do It?

Because there's more than one way to make your vote count in the General Election


by Georgia Aspinall |
Published on

Tactical voting: casting a vote for a candidate who isn't necessarily your first choice to win, in order to increase the chances of your favoured party's overall chance of winning. It’s a phrase that popped up all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds on Tuesday when the General Election was announced. People do it all the time, but this year more and more people are realising it’s the best way to get the result they want. It’s a snap election, so opposition parties have little time to rally votes. This is becoming the year of the tactical vote, so we’re here to tell you what it is and how to do it.

How does tactical voting work?

We have a First Past The Post system, which means that you vote the the MP who will represent the constituency where you live, and they will generally represent a political party. The party with the most MPs will then go on to win the overall election and their leader will become Prime Minister. It's a system that often results in a government with a workable majority, but it does also mean that some people's votes count for less than others. For example, you’re a Labour supporter in a Tory constituency, where the Labour party consistently poll third or fourth in the race, your vote means very little. What do you? Just because the Conservatives are untroubled by the Labour party in your area, that doesn't mean the Lib Dems, for example, couldn't potentially win the vote off them.

So, in that instance, you might vote Lib Dem, increasing the chance of swinging the entire constituency away from the Tories. In this scenario, the less constituencies that belong to the Tories the better, so even if Lib Dem now have a monopoly on that constituency, Labour still have a better chance of winning the election overall (at least better than they would have had you just voted Labour and not swung the vote toward Lib Dem). Basically: best case scenario is your party wins, worst case scenario you at least get your most hated party out, or reduce its overall number of MPs in parliament. Also, we've used an example where a Labour voter lives in a Tory consituency, but you could be a Tory Voter in a Lib Dem Consituency, or a Lib Dem voter in a Labour constituency, the same rule applies. It's about voting for the candidate most likely to get the incumbent out, not for who you want to win overall.

In a perfect world, we could vote for whichever party promised policies that we most closely align with, and everyone's votes would have the same impact, but First Past The Post system mean that your vote can count for very little if you live in a safe seat for a candidate whose policies you don't agree with. And we're increasingly living in a world of None Of The Above politics, where politicians and traditional parties are struggling to connect to young voters in a meaningful way.

But then again, this is why tactical voting is such an important tool if you know it works - and why so many people are talking about it now. It means you CAN make an impact if you know how to. And one person has set out to help people vote in a way that gives them more of a voice. A Google Document called ‘How To Vote To Stop The Tories’ has gone viral since the election was announced. It shows which parties have safe seats in which areas, and tells you which way to vote if you want to get the Tories out.

Tactical voting when you're a student

But we're not here to tell you who to vote for, we’re here to tell you how to give your vote the best possible impact. If you don't live in the constituency as your parents - maybe because you're at university or you've moved to a different town - you can register to vote in either area. Check which party holds your parent's consituency and have a look to see how big their majority is. Do the same with the constituency where you live now. Then, vote wherever your chosen party is the 2nd or 3rd majority. For example, if I wanted the Lib Dems to win and my current home was in a majority Lib Dem area, but my family home was in a majority Tory area, but it was a marginal seat with the Lib Dems polling as the second biggest party, I would re-register to vote where my family home is (you can do it by post or proxy if you can’t make it home) in order to help swing the vote there away from the Tories. Is this a sure-fire way to ensure your party wins? No. But it does make your vote more powerful.

Vote swapping

Another tactical option is vote swapping, although this is most suited to Green party voters or Labour supporters who would like Greens to also have more representation. You can sign up to vote swap with someone If you’re a Green in an area that Labour is likely to win, you can pledge to vote Labour to keep a Tory out. In return, a Labour support in a seat where Labour is unlikely to win or lose will vote Green as this vote then lends their vote to a seat where it can make a difference. This works better in local elections, but in General Elections it can keep the number of Tory MPs down and so is beneficial for Labour or Green supporters.

There are over seven million 18-24 year olds in the UK. Only 40% of us voted in the 2015 election, that’s almost five million people whose voices aren’t being heard. We're being effected by government decisions every day without having chosen that government. If you’re one of the 60% that didn’t vote, you must be sick of hearing ‘well you can’t complain then’ when the government makes decisions you don’t like. You can say that voting is pointless all you want, but five million people WILL have an impact. And if you didn't agree with the Brexit referendum or the results of the 2015 election, then this is another chance to at least try and have your voice heard. Tactical vote or not, you MUST take the tiny amount of time and effort it takes to register if you want to choose who is going to decide your future for the next five years.

Click here to check who has the majority in your constituency.

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**Follow Georgia on Twitter **@GeorgiaAspinall

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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