Love at First Vote

18 September 2011 Politics
Photo by John Vetterli.

Photo by John Vetterli.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year - election season! Yes folks, once again, your candidates (the provincial ones this time) are knocking on doors and burning up photocopiers all over town just to get your attention. Doesn’t it feel nice to be doted on by politicians?

Of course, these people and their minions are going to be courting us relentlessly for the next few weeks, so it’s important not to give it up too easily. Your vote, I mean. As nice as it may feel to hold the fate of their careers in our collective hands, be assured that these people are doing some pretty clever strategizing of their own.

It’s all about a return on one’s investment. How many votes can I get for a minimum time committment? Should I spend 3 hours at a fundraising gala? Only if TV cameras will be there. Door-knocking takes longer than a phone call, but most people hang up the phone, whereas I can stick my foot in the door if they try to shoo me off their front porch.

But have no fear, average student voter. In the face of such cold, calculated politicking, remember that you want a return on your investment, too. If you’re going to spend an hour lining up to vote, you’d better get some satisfaction out of it.

Remember this when you go to vote on October 6th. (You are going to vote, right?) It’s always more satisfying to choose the candidate you like best, instead of settling for a “lesser evil” that has a better chance at winning. This kind of strategic voting - the kind driven by fear - isn’t what you want in a political relationship. It’s like trying to convince yourself that it’s okay to date a drug dealer because, well, at least he doesn’t hit you.

Left-leaning voters sometimes cling to strategic voting for dear life in places like Kitchener-Waterloo, with the hope that it’ll bring about a sliver of progressive social policy. But what it really does is make you lie to yourself and dismiss your ideals as unachievable. What a sad, pale optimism to hang your hat on.

With the re-election of Peter Braid in May, the pitfalls of strategic voting became painfully clear. In Kitchener-Waterloo, as in ridings across the country, strategic voting advocates made wrong predictions that ended up wasting the time and the votes of everyone involved. This screw-up helped bring the Conservatives to a majority, which was probably not their intention. This speaks less to the incompetence of the organizers than it does to the inherent fallibility of strategic voting, and the difficulty of predicting election results before they happen.

This is why it’s so important to find The One. And for all you virgin voters out there, make the first time count. Don’t waste it on some so-called champion unless, of course, so-called champions are your thing. Find your perfect match. Mark your ballot. Seal it with a kiss. And walk away happy in the knowledge that your vote mattered.

This article was originally published in Imprint, the University of Waterloo’s official student newspaper.

Sam Nabi

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