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Tactical Voting 2017 Websites: How To Swap Your Vote And How It Can Stop Your Ballot Paper Being Wasted

It's time to get tactical.

06/06/2017 09:26 BST | Updated 08/06/2017 18:40 BST

Every time an election is called there are cries of “My vote is wasted, what’s the point?”, and the 2017 General Election is no different.

There’s some truth to this. In 2015, three quarters of votes were ‘wasted’ (that is, they did not actually contribute to electing an MP).

In their report “The 2015 General Election: A voting system in crisis”, the Electoral Reform Society called the vote the “most disproportionate result in British election history”, adding: “Millions of voters are angry with a system that marginalises their views”.

PA Archive/PA Images
David Cameron stands on the steps of Number 10 after winning a second term

The 2011 electoral referendum rejected change to the ‘alternative vote’ - a preferential system where the voter ranks the candidates in order of preference -and there’s no sign of other reform any time soon.

But for those who feel dissatisfied with the value of their vote, vote swapping could be part of the answer. 

What is vote swapping?

Voting tactically isn’t a new concept but a number of websites have made it simple to pair up with someone potentially on the other side of the country to try to maximise the effectiveness of your vote.

Vote swapping is when a voter in one constituency agrees to vote tactically for a candidate or party who wouldn’t have been their first choice but has a greater chance of winning in that area.

In exchange, for a voter in another constituency will vote tactically for the candidate the first voter prefers, because that candidate has a greater possibility of winning in that district.

Here’s what that might look like in real life...

Some people may also choose to swap their vote if they live in a constituency which is a very safe seat and so their vote would be wasted there. This way, their vote could have an actual effect in a marginal seat.

How do I swap my vote?

Swap My Vote matches up people who want to pair up. Think of it as online dating for tactical voting.

You enter your preferred party, as well as another party you’d be willing to vote for and then sign using either your Twitter or Facebook account.

You will then be presented with one or more people you can choose to swap your vote with.

Once you’ve both confirmed your swap, head to the poll!

Swap My Vote
A look at the Swap My Vote site

How do I know the person I’m paired with will definitely vote as they say they will?

Ultimately, it’s a matter of trust. Taking photos in the polling booth is banned so you can’t ask your voting partner to prove who they voted for.

Sites such as Swap My Vote require voters to log in using either their Twitter or Facebook feeds, so founder Tom De Grunwald believes there is a greater level of trust and accountability

He told HuffPost UK: “You can click through and find out who your partner is and you can get a sense, like a you would differentiate between a spambot following you and a real person, you can actually get a sense of a) whether it’s a real person and b) whether they have the kind of politics that they’re professing, whether they’re interested in the kinds of issues that they would seem to be interested in from what they’re saying their voting preferences are.

“You can introduce yourself, have a chat and actually people were tweeting each other to say they were off to vote.

“Because they’re quite tied to your real identity we think they’re a good bet.”

Sammy J Bland
Tom De Grunwald, founder of Swap My Vote

Even if your voting partner did end up pulling a fast one, De Grunwald said that actually the worst case scenario isn’t really so bad.

He explained: “The worst case scenario is actually not really the worst case scenario because if you’re interested in tactical voting, you are basically prepared to vote for your second or third preference.

“All that is going to happen is, that is essentially what you’d do anyway, you vote tactically. The only difference is that the other person will cast your vote - your first preference vote - for you. So the worst case scenario is that you vote tactically which isn’t really too bad.”

Is vote swapping legal?

Yes.

As long as you are not paying someone to vote for you or trying to force someone to vote for something against their will, vote swapping is totally legal.

Can vote swapping really make a difference?

Tom De Grunwald believes so.

He told HuffPost UK: “There’s a real opportunity for it to actually swing a marginal or two.

“If just a few hundred people from one place were to swap with another place, it could have a real profound effect.”

AlanOrganLRPS via Getty Images
Tom De Grunwald believes vote swapping could help to swing some marginal seats

It’s difficult to know if vote swapping specifically can make a huge difference, but tactical voting as a wider phenomenon certainly can.

The man credited with helping swing the 2015 Canadian election to get Justin Trudeau elected recently said that tactical voting could turn the UK general election, according to the Financial Times.

Discussing tactical voting to try to soften the UK’s Brexit deal, Hisham Abdel-Rahman said: “If all these strategic voting campaigns can succeed in energising the citizen to vote, they can swing a lot of seats.”

I don’t want to swap my vote but I’m interested in tactical voting - what can I do?

Campaign Together

Campaign Together is working to “stop the Tories” bringing together people who might vote for a range of parties to coordinate on ways to prevent Theresa May from winning a second term. This was known as Vote Swap during the last election and also focussed on pairing, but its aim has changed slightly this time round.

Vote Tactical

An anti-Tory tactical voting spreadsheet which went viral following the announcement of the General Election has also now been turned into a website.

Best For Britain

Gina Miller, who initiated the legal challenge against Brexit, has also helped launch tactical voting initiative Best For Britain, for those specifically keen to prevent the UK from leaving the European Union.