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'Anyone But Harper' team turns to vote-swapping to oust Conservatives

Last Updated Sep 14, 2015 at 12:30 pm EST

File photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

A group of activists who are openly calling for “Anyone But Harper” in the upcoming federal election are asking Canadians to consider vote-swapping to oust the Conservatives.

It’s a slightly complicated process but the group argues it’s worth it, saying Stephen Harper won the 2011 by 6,201 votes in 14 very close ridings.

In one Ontario riding (Nipissing-Timiskaming) the difference between the winning Conservatives and the losing Liberals was just 14 votes. And in Etobicoke Centre, 26 votes separated the Conservatives and the Liberals.

Vote swapping is almost exactly what it sounds like: Voters in a riding where their preferred party likely won’t win (based on polling) ‘swaps’ their vote with a citizen in a different riding facing an identical problem. When both voters head to the polls, they vote for the other’s party.

It could mean a Liberal would vote for the NDP, or an NDP supporter would vote for the Greens – all with the ultimate goal of booting Harper out of office.

VoteSwap Canada has set up a Facebook page to make it easier for Canadians to meet up.

This year’s federal election, set to take place on Oct. 19, will see 30 new ridings across the country –  11 in the GTA alone. The boundaries for about 70 per cent of the existing ridings have also changed. That means Canadians who previously saw themselves in a Conservative – or Liberal or NDP – stronghold could see a major upset on Election Day.

The Elections Canada website allows voters to plug in their postal code and find their riding, while the VoteSwap website identifies which one of those are swing ridings.

It’s one of several grassroots efforts to combat the current ‘first past the post’ electoral system, where the candidate with the most votes wins each riding and the party with the most elected candidates forms the government (in the case of a majority). Under the first past the post system, a party could come in second in every single riding in Canada, and still see no seats on Parliament Hill.

There are those who prefer strategic voting (also known as the ‘hold your nose’ strategy) and others who fear vote-splitting, where votes ‘split’ among several similar candidates mean none of them win.

In Toronto, voters could see ranked ballots in the 2018 election. The provincial Liberal government hopes to change the Municipal Elections Act to allow any of the province’s 444 municipalities to use ranked ballots as an alternative.

Ranked ballots allow voters to choose more than one candidate. If no one candidate wins a majority of votes, the candidate with the least votes is cut and the votes are redistributed until a clear winner can be declared. That cut and redistribution can be done immediately, in an instant run-off or with follow-up elections.

A run-off system would redistribute votes until one candidate has at least 50 per cent of popular support.

Would you ever swap your vote? Let us know in the comments.