Friday, March 31, 2006

On "Wasted" or "Lost" Votes

The concept of a "lost" or "wasted" vote was attacked by AZ who wrote:

I have been hearing this slogan of wasted votes for years. The first time I heard it, it made no sense to me and today it still makes no sense to me. First and foremost, a vote is a statement of belief and support. That is what a free election under a democratic system is all about. If it does not result in the hoped for political results, so what? The voter has fulfilled his responsibilities under the concepts of democracy and voted his conscience. If his is a minority opinion today, there is always tomorrow.

The root of the wasted vote concept is essentially totalitarian. The logical conclusion to such thinking is that one should only vote for the winner. Which is of course whomever is the ruling elite of the country. Even if you do not support them, even if they are totally wrong, even if they are destroying everything you hold valuable, you must vote for them in order to not waste your vote. Those who repeat this mantra are either wittingly or unwittingly promoting a totalitarian ideology and are no more than propaganda tools of the establishment.

The next point I do not comprehend in this wasted vote shibboleth is how am I preserving my vote by voting for a winner? Israel's corrupt and elitist electoral system gives the voter absolutely no input to the process of the selection of candidates for office nor any influences whatsoever on the MKs once they are elected.

So what do I gain by abandoning my principles and beliefs by not wasting my vote?

My reply would be:

It's simple, actually.

In Israel's electoral system, a list needs to pass a threshhold of 2%. It's not a run-of between Democrats and Republicans. The idea is not only to vote your conscience and your ideology but to vote, in proportional representation, for a list that can get in, one out of many. The list must, theoretically, have a chance of getting in and if not, there is always something very close. That is the "lost" meaning: that your vote could have gone, in a field of many, to a better "runner".

Suppose there's a foot race on, in the Olympics, a sprint.

You're black and you'd like the black guy to win proving superiority of Afros. But there's a Jamaican fella who is know to be a bit faster and probably has a better chance of winning the race. Do you bet on the Afro because he's more like you or someone who isn't White but has a better chance of proving that non-Caucasions are faster?



AZ responded and wrote:

You do not address the issue. A vote is a public expression of an opinion as is a non vote. The babble of wasting votes is no more than the cynical efforts of the powerful to discourage the outsiders of the establishment. "Either you are with us and a winner or you have nothing." What would you tell those with a winner takes all district system? Don't waste your vote by supporting the minority candidate? However, even more to the issue is the fact that no MK is obligated to anyone once he is elected. There is absolutely no action that can be taken against an MK who betrays those who voted for him. Nor is there anything to prevent his political patron from keeping him in the Knesset. So stop all this nonsense about wasted votes.

And I replied

Shavua Tov.

Allow me to differ.

Israel has a multi-choice system, it's not either-or as in a district system. In fact, in that system, a party could gain majoritarian rule although a minority in the country and the U.S. has seen that, too.

In addition to voting for the party you like, you also have a second consideration: to enable the coalition of your choice to rule. If theoretically, by voting for a small party, like Merzel, you would negate the chances of a coalition being formed with NU/NRP included, would you be voting smartly or not?

If NU/NRP didn't get in because you decided Merzel was best, wouldn't that be a "lost" vote?

1 comment:

Isramom said...

But the NRP/NU did get in it just got one less seat. (To me that is a pity, but I don't really think it drastically changes the morbid picture.)