The first past the post system isn’t without flaw. That’s a given. However, I do not accept that there are any wasted votes under our democracy. If the system works as it should, with no corruption or errors (for they are issues for another day), every vote is counted. You might be the only person voting for the Unhinged Knee-jerkers’ Ignorance Party (I wish I could come up with a catchy acronym for that), but that vote still counts. You’ve had your say, and registered your preference. Your vote was not wasted simply because it was not cast for the winning candidate or a losing candidate that came closer to winning.
During election campaigns, the Liberal Democrats in particular like to trot out the myth that a vote for anyone but the top two parties in a two-horse race is a wasted vote. “Labour can’t win here” their leaflets proclaim in areas where they are fighting the Tories. If you don’t want the Conservatives to win, you need to vote for us – they tell you on the doorstep – a Labour vote will let the Tories in. In the north of England where their fight is with Labour, it’s disaffected Tory votes they target in this way.
This ploy is cynical in the extreme. The Lib Dems’ claims are often accompanied by not-to-scale bar graphs, designed to mislead. They will always visually portray the gap between the probable top two and third parties as bigger than the percentages that accompany them. They are also very likely to use the result that best fits their purpose, not necessarily the latest one.
I also reject the wasted vote premise, because it makes the very bold assumption that I am happy to vote against a party that I don’t want to see elected, over my own preference. People have a right to use their vote negatively, but I resent the suggestion that mine is somehow wasted if I ignore the tactical route. Since they went into coalition with the Tories, I think the Lib Dems have a cheek to still be using this tactic, and I’ll be surprised if it continues to serve them as well as it once did.
Put simply, whichever candidate or party I vote for in local elections on 2 May, will be the one I want to vote for. It won’t be tactical, it won’t be negative, and it won’t be wasted.