Even if you haven’t been keeping up with the election news – and let’s face it, it’s been pretty dull – you’ve probably heard enough to know that anything can happen on May 7.
Knowing this, the parties and the media have been drumming up “nightmare” scenarios – whether they be of a Conservative/Ukip/Lib Dem coalition or a Labour/SNP one.
Increasingly though, people are planning against that. Tactical voting is nothing new, but almost twice as many people plan to vote tactically in next week’s General Election as in 2010, according to research, with Consumer Intelligence finding 14% of voters intended to vote tactically – using their ballot to stop a party they do not like rather than simply voting for their favourite.
Why is tactical voting necessary?
In Britain, we have the first-past-the-post system. This essentially means that some votes count more than others, and the percentage of total votes a party receives doesn’t translate to the percentage of seats they’ll hold in Parliament. You know what we’re talking about – that whole “Vote X… get Y” or “Vote A… get B” thing we’ve been hearing.
The research said 15% of voters believed tactical voting was the best way to make the vote count, while one in four believe it is the only way to help stop a result nationally they do not want.
How does it work?
If you live in a swing seat, meaning that it will only take a small number of votes in any direction for the seat to change hands, tactical voting could have a bigger impact than voting for the party you actually want to win.
If you live in a seat that the Conservatives are almost definitely going to win, but you support the Lib Dems, for example, you might decide to vote Labour to boost that party’s numbers. In other words your vote is more NOT Conservatives, than for any other party.
And since Labour is likely to be the Tories’ biggest opposition it’s best to opt for them – supporters of tactical voting argue – a vote for your preferred Lib Dems would ultimately split the NOT Conservative vote, and make it more likely for them to win the seat.
How do I go about tactical voting?
There are sites like Vote Swap, which caters only to those leaning left. This website will tell you whether your constituency is a target for Labour or the Greens, or whether it’s a Tory safe seat and whichever way you vote may not matter.
From there you can pledge to swap your vote – if you’re a Green in a seat that Labour are targeting you can vote Labour, and in return someone in a seat where Labour aren’t going to win can vote Green.
There are also sites that have a less explicit agenda. Swap My Vote allows you to enter the party you support, before choosing a different party you’d be willing to vote for. Then it scours its database for anyone who’s entered the same choices as you and might be willing to swap votes.
How do I know if it will be worth it?
It’s estimated that only 29% of votes cast in the 2010 general election were cast for winning parties. If you’d like to find out the power your vote will have come May 7, this website can help you. From there, you can consider voting tactically if there’s no chance that your vote will have an impact on your seat.