Friday, April 8, 2022

Question about the local election voting system: "Should I rank all (or most) of the candidates?" Answer: YES, especially if you want to stop the Tories

In the wake of my April Fool (which alarmingly about 10-20% of people took seriously, even though I thought I had made it self-evidently absurd), I was planning to write a genuine guide to how the Single Transferable Vote system for the local council election works.  That's been slightly overtaken by the insanity of certain leaflets that have been dropping through people's doors recently, but there is one specific question that several people have asked me and that I feel I should respond to. In a nutshell, it's...

"I know I should rank all of the pro-independence candidates in my ward, but should I rank all (or most) of the other candidates as well?"

The answer is yes, and I'll explain why.  Suppose I lived in a ward which returns three councillors.  Suppose also that the SNP were putting up two candidates (a typical number in a three-seat ward where the SNP are strong), Labour were putting up one, Alba one, the Greens one, the Tories one, the Liberal Democrats one, and there was also one inoffensive independent candidate with no apparent stance on the constitutional question.  I would probably rank the candidates as follows -

1) Alba
2) SNP
3) SNP 
4) Green
5) Inoffensive Independent
6) Liberal Democrats
7) Labour
8) Conservatives

Most of those decisions are no-brainers.  I have the SNP ahead of the Greens because, at least on paper, independence is the SNP's number one objective, whereas for the Greens it's a somewhat lower priority.  The inoffensive independent is ranked below all of the pro-independence candidates, but ahead of all the unionist candidates, on the logic that a non-unionist is usually preferable to a unionist.  The Tories are ranked last because they're obviously the most objectionable party in all sorts of ways, and more specifically because it's important to reject their "muscular unionism" as emphatically as possible.  The only real dilemma is whether to have Labour ahead of the Lib Dems or vice versa, but I've given the Lib Dems the nod on the theory that Labour poses the greatest medium-term threat to the hegemony of pro-independence parties in Scottish politics.  It's worth giving Labour a ranking to help bury the Tories, but I'm inclined to think every other party apart from the Tories should be ranked ahead of Labour.

So why isn't ranking the pro-indy candidates enough to properly reject the Tories? Well, it might be, but only if you strike it lucky.  In my hypothetical example above, let's imagine that Alba are eliminated early on - which means that my vote will transfer to whichever SNP candidate I ranked highest. Then let's imagine that the two SNP candidates reach the quota and are duly elected.  That means there is one remaining seat to be filled, and it can only be filled by a non-SNP and non-Alba candidate.  Any surplus votes from the two SNP candidates (ie. the number of votes they exceeded the quota by) will be transferred to other candidates and will help to determine the winner of the final seat.  The upshot is that a portion of my vote will be transferred - but only if I gave a ranking to one of the candidates still in contention.  So if I only ranked pro-indy candidates, I'm banking everything on the Greens doing well enough to have a chance of the final seat.  If the Greens are eliminated, I've effectively abstained on the question of who I want to be the third and final councillor from the ward.

Maybe I'll be fortunate and the final count will come down to a straight fight between the Greens and the Tories.  A portion of my vote will transfer to the Greens, and I'll have done everything I conceivably could to freeze the Tories out.  But really it's up to other voters to decide whether the Greens are in with a shout.  If instead the final count is a straight fight between Labour and Tory, a portion of my vote will only transfer if I gave a ranking to Labour - and if I haven't done that, I've sat on my hands and thus could effectively have helped the Tories win the last seat. 

This is what is so bonkers about the leaflet and letter the SNP have just sent out.  There's no joined-up thinking at all.  The content of the letter makes clear that the priority of the SNP's campaign is not independence, but instead to "send a message to the Tories".  And yet it then goes on to recommend an electoral strategy (only ranking the SNP candidates and abstaining on all other rankings) that is tailor-made to help Tory candidates get elected.  That is not an exaggeration at all.  The SNP have huge influence over where the lower preferences of pro-independence voters go - either they'll help elect pro-indy councillors and non-Tory councillors, or they'll go nowhere and be wasted.  At present, the SNP are urging the latter.  If you think you can make any sense of that whatsoever, you're...well, you're probably drunk.

*  *  *

To catch up with my Scot Goes Popcast interview with Alba candidate Lisa Keogh, please click HERE (video version) or HERE (audio only).

13 comments:

  1. Very helpful on a question that has long plagued my mind. Thank you. One question remains with me though. Why that eighth 'vote' for the Tory? Could I not just stop at 7, without the challenge to my conscience of marking Tory?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, not using your final preference at all has exactly the same effect as ranking the Tories last, as long as you make sure you've ranked all the other candidates.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, James. Good to confirm that.

      Delete
  2. So just to confirm, if I want to send this message to SNP supporters, it would be -
    1) SNP
    2) SNP
    3) Green
    4) Alba
    5) Inoffensive Independent
    6) Liberal Democrats
    7) Labour
    8) Conservative

    Personally I'd put Labour above the Liberal Democrats because of the odious AC-H!

    And I would not go as far as ranking the Conservative candidate, on the basis that it makes no difference and salves my conscience a wee bit more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd only grade a Unionist candidate if he/she from pro-Union party1 has something to commend them MORE than pro-Union party2 or pro-Union party3 etc.

      It is apparent from the round by round voting patterns in my ward from 2017 that Unionist voters only assigned ranks to pro-Union candidates. That is, once the Tory candidate got elected/eliminated votes went to the next Tory, then to LibDem contestant. From the number of votes discarded at the point there were no Tory, LibDem and Labour candidates left it was obvious that these pro-Union voters did not grade the pro-Indy (SNP) candidate.

      The result was that the SNP candidate, who was in 3rd place after the first round of voting and well ahead of the LibDem candidate, didn't make it into the top 4 places after transfers were allowed for and thus failed to become a councilor.

      In effect the pro-Union did 'vote till they boaked' - they couldn't stomach the though of ranking the SNP candidate and it worked for them (in my ward in 2017).

      Delete
  3. I am sure your advice is well meaning and well researched however I am genuinely sorry it is wasted on me.

    If there wasn't an Alba candidate in my ward I wouldn't be voting at all, however there is and she'll be getting my "1" and the rest can go to hell.

    If this is me walking into a unionist trap then I'm happy to do so. I really don't care anymore and I'm sure there are many like me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hopefully there aren't, because yes, you are flinging yourself headlong into a unionist trap. If unionist voters "vote till they boak" and pro-independence voters don't, unionist votes will carry extra weight. It really is as simple as that. Only using a first preference really is daft, that's the first rule of STV.

      Delete
    2. Maybe "vote till you boak" is not ideal for all? 😉

      Delete
  4. Independence For ScotlandApril 9, 2022 at 7:40 PM

    As you might expect the WGD numpties are defending the SNP two votes SNP and stuff everyone else leaflet. Leading the charge to say this is perfectly normal and just fine and dandy is mad liar Irish Skier.

    These people are just SNP party drones.

    The SNP is British Labour in Scotland hiding under a tartan blanket and they are the great betrayers and I rank them below the Tories for this reason and the fact that Robertson and his wife are waiting in the wings to move in to Bute House.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Alba (yes, idiosyncratic and plump with a creepy adversity), Green (yes but a trifle loony-toons gender obsessed eccentrics), SNP (No -why, what' for?)...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It depends on wether you are pro Indy or not.
      If you want independence it’s:-
      1 pro Indy
      2 pro Indy
      3 pro Indy
      4 pro Indy
      5 anyone else
      Last conservative
      After independence as a nation we can choose who we want in power

      Delete
  6. I would only agree, James, with your using all your rankings IF YOU CAN DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN THE UNIONIST candidates. As you suggest, in this case, then you might wish to put the Tories last IF YOU FIND THEM MORE OBJECTIONABLE THAN LABOUR AND LIBDEMS.

    However, if not then stop assigning numbers after you've graded your pro-Indy contestants in order of preference.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am spoiling my ballot. I have no Alba candidate to vote for and I will not vote for treacherous lying SNP.

    ReplyDelete