Don’t Let Them Win

Strategic Voting: Against, Not for

The upcoming federal election on May 2 will be, for many Concordia undergrads, the first election in which they will be able to cast a vote. Posters are up, the campaigns are in full swing and the party leaders are darting across the country trying to garner support.

Yet, the student vote is usually overlooked by most of the major parties by virtue of the fact that, historically, students avoid the polls en masse.

Whatever the reason, whether students feel politics do not directly impact them or there is just a general lack of interest, students should realize that federal politics do have a significant impact on their lives and that they can actually have a significant impact on the outcomes of elections.

While the basic mechanics of voting may seem pretty straightforward—vote for the person representing the party you support—the nature of the first-past-the-post electoral system used in Canada complicates things.
Here’s where it gets a little tedious: since it is essentially a winner-take-all system, the ­so-called losers get nothing if they’re not elected. Also, since more than two parties compete for the same riding, those multiple candidates divide the vote, ensuring that securing around only 30 to 40 per cent of the votes guarantees a win in a close riding. Because of these characteristics of the electoral system, strategic voting has become common among conscientious voters, who end up voting against parties/candidates they dislike, instead of for parties they like.

While Concordia students from Quebec will vote in the riding in which they live, the students from out-of-province find themselves in a unique situation. Unlike most other Canadian voters, out-of-province students have a choice as to where they cast their vote.

They are presented with two options. First, they can choose to vote in the riding in which they lived before coming to study in Quebec. Second, they can choose to vote in the Quebec riding they currently reside in. These two options remain open to students as long as they are in school and have not declared an official residence.

While there is talk of voter apathy—as evidenced by the record-low voter turnout in the last federal election—a perceived insignificance of casting a vote in party strongholds, out-of-province students actually have a substantial opportunity to circumvent these problems with the special choice that is afforded them.

This means that, unlike many Canadians, these students have the ability to make their votes a very serious strategic factor in certain ridings.

So whether out-of-province students choose to vote in their home riding or the one they live in while at school, they should cast their vote in the riding that it will have the most impact in.

Since most Canadians are limited by the first-past-the-post system used in Canada, out-of-province students have the chance to make a difference in these upcoming elections, one that they should take advantage of.

Not only do student votes matter just as much as anyone else’s, in this case, they may even be more valuable.