Tactical Voting Dilemmas Highlight The Case For Good Polling And Election Analytics

One of the main things I hope people take away from my blog is that people who are interested in politics need to get more interested in state and local races, downballot stuff and all the rest. There’s a lot more to America than Presidential elections. So in that vein, here in DC we have a special election for an at-large city council seat tomorrow and I can’t figure out who to vote for. The basic shape of things is that the frontrunner is Vincent Orange, a longtime also-ran on the DC political scene with fairly high name recognition and a solid chance of winning. Rather than him, I’d like to see either Bryan Weaver or Republican (gasp!) Patrick Mara win the race.

Between those two, I don’t have a strong preference. Weaver’s views are closer to my policy preferences than Mara’s, but given that the DC Council’s median is going to stay well to my left regardless of who wins I sort of think that Mara would be a useful anchor point on the council. But it’s just not that big a deal. The goal is to elect a smart, hardworking, basically sensible person and either of those guys would fit the bill. So I want to vote for the one who’s more viable to actually win. Except in the absence of polling or any kind of cool DC-focused election models, I have no idea who that is.

Left of center Canadian voters, I note, seem to be facing a similar problem where the rising popularity of the social democratic NDP seems to be having the practical impact of putting Stephen Harper’s Conservatives within reach of a majority. The solution isn’t the condescending old line that New Democrats need to hold their noses and vote Liberal, it’s more that anti-Harper voters need to think strategically and not vote for a party that’s in third place and their particular riding. Broadly speaking, that means voting NDP in British Columbia and Québec and voting Liberal elsewhere. But there’s a website called Project Democracy that’s offering a more precisely specified model to assist you with your tactical voting decision on a riding-by-riding basis.

It’s a cool development, and I hope that over time more polling and more tools like this will become available to help people in various situations optimize their voting behavior.