Tactical voting

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Tactical voting happens when a person votes for someone other than their favorite candidate in a way to either help their favorite or achieve some other goal. This may happen in national or local elections, or even in elections for clubs and homeowner associations.

Examples[change | change source]

Say 5 people are running as candidates for board members, but only 3 will be elected. For the following situations except the last, let's say you get 1 vote.

  • Your favorite is almost guaranteed to win a seat on the board, so you may choose to vote for your second favorite candidate to help him out. That gives your two favorites a better chance of winning.
  • Your favorite is almost guaranteed to lose, so you may choose to vote for your second favorite candidate to help him out. That gives your second choice a chance of winning even though your favorite may lose.
  • Your favorite is uncertain to win, so you may choose to vote for a stronger candidate, rather than see someone else win.
  • Say you get to vote for 3 candidates and your favorite is in the middle of the pack. You may choose to vote only for your favorite and not use your other 2 votes so that your favorite faces less competition.

Another common situation happens in primary elections, where members of one party may temporarily 'cross over' to the other party to support a candidate who is getting fewer votes, hoping their favorite will face weak competition in the main election. This type of negative voting is popular but often considered unethical.

Ethics[change | change source]

Many experts question tactical voting in that it can undermine a democratic outcome. That is, ethical voters may believe it more important how a candidate wins than who wins. Others feel the end justifies the means. Most researchers tend to frown on tactical voting.

Resources[change | change source]

  • Cox, Gary (1997). Making Votes Count. Cambridge University Press. p. 340. ISBN 978-0521585279.
  • Svensson, Lars-Gunnar (1999). The Proof of the Gibbard-Satterthwaite Theorem Revisited
  • The Science of Elections, Brams, Herschbach Science Online (2001). Abstract

Other websites[change | change source]

  • Tactical Voting Can Be a Weak Strategy -- Article on tactical voting within larger strategic considerations [archived]
  • VotePair.org VotePair is a banding together of the people who started tactical voting online in the 2000 US elections
  • Voting methods page Includes extensive discussion of strategic voting in a wide range of real and theoretical voting systems