Editorial: How Many to Vote For?

Rossland Telegraph
By Rossland Telegraph
October 28th, 2008

It happens to me every three years, and it probably happens to you too. People come up to me around election time and say, “I really like candidates Tom, Dick, and Mary, but I don’t know much about the others—although I’ll never vote for that dastardly Brunhilde in a million years!” Then they pause and add, “But I don’t know the rest. Who else should I vote for?”

You’ve probably been giving some thought as to who to vote for in the current municipal elections, but have you thought about how many people to vote for? That’s the question this week.

When you have a slate of nine candidates for six councillor positions, as we do this time around in our civic elections, it’s a simple mathematical fact that 2/3 of those who put their names up as candidates will be elected. Not bad odds! The interesting question, though, is how many of them do you actually know well enough to vote knowledgably for?

Often people in town will favour several candidates and strongly object to a couple of others. The rest are a bit of a blur. So when the time comes to tick off six boxes in the voting booth, they pick the three they like and three they know little or nothing about, carefully avoiding the trio they dislike.

Fair enough? Perhaps. But interesting scenarios can arise from this situation. Let’s say Rossland has a thousand voters and the political scene, heaven forbid, is polarized. Half of the population (500 people) really likes Candidates A, B, and C and seethes with loathing when G, H, and I’s names are mentioned. Let’s also say that the other 500 feel the exact opposite way, favouring G, H, and I over A, B, and C.

If all thousand voters in this scenario choose their three favourites and three ‘anonymous’ candidates (D, E, and F), what happens? When the votes are tallied D, E, and F each have a thousand votes while A, B, C, G, H, and I each have around 500. The runaway winners will be the candidates about whom nobody cared much one way or another.

It’s a somewhat disturbing fact: a good election strategy in Rossland might be to make yourself as invisible as possible and reap the benefits of anonymity.

Interestingly, according to City Hall, it’s legal for a ballot to be incomplete; there’s no requirement that voters pick all seven possible candidates (Note: none of this matters in the mayoral race given that we each have only one vote for the two candidates—unless you prefer neither). In other words, we are free to vote for as many or as few candidates as we wish.

An ethical question arises. Ought we to vote for people we know little, if anything about? Or do we have an obligation to choose seven people? Ought we to do the necessary research to make a full and informed choice? Or just stick with the candidates we feel confident about?

Any thoughts?

Categories: Op/Ed

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