Views / Opinion

Federal election: How to decide your vote in 20 minutes

Calculate which party is best on your issues or strategically

FedElxn Voting 20150914

Is your head spinning because of this election? Have niqabs, refugees, budget deficits and pipelines got you confused? You are definitely not alone.

According to the most recent Ipsos poll, conducted over the last week, only 56 per cent of eligible voters were “absolutely certain” of who they were going to vote for on Oct. 19.

So how can you vote with confidence? Metro has answers to the most common questions, and a guide to get you there in three easy steps.

I don’t know what riding I’m in/where to vote

STEP 1: Go to elections.ca and type in your postal code to find out.

I can’t decide who to vote for

STEP 2: There’s a handydandy quiz for that! It only takes about 5-10 minutes. Go to votecompass.com and select Canada. It will ask your opinion on everything from economic policy to national child care. Some of the questions are HARD. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know an answer — many of the world’s top experts and policy makers don’t agree (that’s why there’s an election!). Just select “I don’t know” and move on the next question.

So then I’m done, right? I’ll know who to vote for?

Not necessarily. There is one more step you could take before you head to the polls if you largely agree with the platforms of two or more parties, and if you live in a riding where there is a tight race. Strategic voting is when you vote for your second, third or even fourth-choice candidate to try to prevent your least-preferred candidate from winning.

The non-profit organization Leadnow, which is advocating for strategic voting to defeat the Conservatives, has identified 144 out of 338 ridings across the country as places where strategic voting could make the difference between a Conservative and a Liberal or NDP winning. (Full disclosure: this reporter is a volunteer with Leadnow.)

University of British Columbia political scientist Fred Cutler, who is one of four investigators tasked with studying this election for Elections Canada, says the question of whether to vote strategically is a moral one. “If the voting act is to try and produce a federal government that is closest to your preferences, then voting strategically is something that you definitely should do,” he said.

“If you think your vote is more of an expressive thing because the odds of swinging your seat are tiny, and you might feel some kind of regret about voting for a local candidate whose party you don’t prefer, then you shouldn’t do it.” In order to vote strategically, though, you need to look at polls.

But isn’t polling inaccurate?

Actually, Cutler believes polling is more accurate than ever — it just depends on what polls you look at. If you want to vote strategically, the most important thing is to look at riding-level polls, not national ones, because national polls can’t tell you what is happening in your riding.

Which brings us to STEP 3, explained by Cutler: “People who really want to know what’s going on, up to date, in their local riding, in my view should use one of the websites like threehundredeight.com or votetogether.ca,” he said, “because those people are using the local polling plus previous results, plus any changes in the polls that are going on nationally now, and applying them to the local races.”

Freelance reporter Kate Webb is a graduate in political science from the University of British Columbia and a volunteer with Leadnow’s non-profit strategic voting initiative, votetogether.ca.

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