Vote splitting is an important phenomenon for
political parties to try to
exploit or eliminate. However, in first past the post elections with more
than about 1000 voters, the individual voter does not have a good logical
reason to vote for any party other than the one he or she would wish to
Consider an election with 1000 voters including yourself. There are two
main parties, one more to your liking than the other, and a third party
with all kinds of policies you find really cool that for some mysterious
reason only polls at 2%. It is possible that, not including your vote,
each main party gets the identical number of votes, say 490. Then, your
vote could decide the election. But you know how elections turn out.
Usually one candidate's attack ads are not quite as effective as the
other candidate's attack ads, and you get some wild result, say 495 for
one party and 485 for the other. In your entire lifetime, it is highly
unlikely you cast the deciding vote in a single election. Even if you
lived in Florida and you voted for Gore in the 2000 U.S. election, one
of the closest on record, U.S. troops would still be searching
for all those nucular weapons in Iraq. That's because your vote
is but one, and one just doesn't cut it in elections.
But then why should I vote at all?
Good question. It seems 50% of
Americans have an answer: You shouldn't. But
I disagree. There are logical
reasons to vote, just as there are, for example, logical reasons to recycle
all that stuff you thought was garbage just 20 years ago. You alone aren't
really helping the environment all that much when you recycle all those
old newspapers. There are vast forests out there to exploit,
and the few dozen
trees you need in order to read your favorite newspaper for
the rest of your life isn't going to destroy the forests. We humans,
however, have the capability of acting purely on principle. We can recognize
whether something is morally right or wrong, and act accordingly
even if the individual act accomplishes near nothing. We hope that others will
act similarly and, for example, recycle their newspapers as well, so that with the
combined force of millions of people acting in concert, we may save our forests.
This gives us peace of mind.
But can't I similarly act in concert with others who share my political
leanings and strategically vote so that the vote is not split and the main
party I prefer wins?
Of course you can, but will it give you peace of mind? You could just as
easily cast your vote for the third party with the really cool ideas and
hope others act in concert with you and do the same, and possibly the third
party will win.
That's not realistic.
Doesn't matter. It's not realistic that your individual vote will make any
Then why does my best friend keep telling me not to split the vote?
You have conversations with your best friend about vote splitting? Wow,
you are a geek. Your best friend is probably in some way involved
with, or has fallen for the propaganda of, the main party that you prefer.
It is in the interests of the main parties
to perpetuate the myth that it is important for individual voters to not help
split the vote. This is because they are concerned with whole blocks of votes
rather than a single voter's individual vote. In a close election, if one of
the main parties can convince all the third party people to vote for it, that
party could win the election.
But I'd rather have that than let the other main party win again!
Doesn't matter. In a close election, if one of the main parties can convince
all the third party people to vote for it except for you, that party
could still win the election.
But if nobody listens to the don't split the vote argument, ---
Then you've won!