vote swap

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If you just want to swap your vote right now see and Vote Swap Canada. Yes it's legal, and even if someone tries to cheat you, a candidate that can win will still get one vote they would not have otherwise got, so it's robust against cheats. See the vote swap FAQ for more technical detail about vote swapping and comparisons to other tactics, which explains why vote swapping is not "strategic" voting.

A small vote swapping movement began during the 2008 Canadian federal election. People were able, through a few dedicated web sites, to communicate with other voters in their region and swap votes in order to achieve a more fairly representative government.

Unlike other emerging forms of electoral reform, vote swapping, also known as pair voting does not rely on party politics in order to be accomplished. One person can swap his or her vote for a preferred candidate that would make no difference to the election outcome in her/his region with a voter in another region who is in the same predicament. By agreeing on how to divide their two votes to achieve a commonly desired outcome, two persons can overcome the problems of an electoral system that limits their choices to one district/candidate/riding. They are not dependent on parties as their only means of cooperation, which breaks the monopoly parties have long had on power.

For example, if there is no Green or NDP candidate in your region but you'd vote for one of those if you had the chance, you can swap your vote with someone who wants to vote for one of the other parties but has a stronger Green or NDP Candidate.

Obvious question? How does one know if the other person voted the way she/he had agreed to? You don't. The whole concept relies on trust.

Some have come to look at it this way: "It is only important that I honor my agreement. If the other person honors hers/his, that's perfect. If they don't, no matter, I held up my end and the election outcome is different than it would have been. Therefore, effective vote swapping means voters only need to trust themselves. In other words, one empowers oneself by trusting someone else and then casting a vote for them in good faith. One empowers another by trusting in them, period, whether they honor that or not.

Not "strategic voting"[edit]

Propaganda from parties, or ignorant persons, often equate vote swaps to so-called strategic voting. While both involve potentially voting for second- or third-choice parties, they have such opposite outcomes that they should never be equated:

  • "Strategic" votes rely on individuals making choices only for themselves based on only the information they can get from nation-wide sources. They are not encouraged to get a perspective from anyone actually in a position to assess a particular voting choice from within their own riding. They are not encouraged to trust a person, only to trust polls.
  • Small parties inevitably lose popular vote due to "strategic voting" which makes them appear weaker than they are. By contrast, vote swapping preserves the true popular vote.
  • Small parties are much more likely to convince a large number of voters in the district their leader runs in, to vote for that leader if they are sure their own party will get an exactly equivalent amount of support elsewhere that improves the larger party's seat count and potentially makes them the government or a key player in a minority government. By contrast, strategic deals to elect small party leaders relies on such questionable tactics as deals between leaders that are often not supported by the candidates or constituency association, which can be attacked as undermining democracy.

Experiences in 2008 election[edit]

Pair Vote claims to have been able, in collaboration with Vote Swap Canada, to [1] [help swing two Canadian ridings through vote swapping].

Testimonial from Pair Vote's final report on the 2008 election:

“The only reason it was “necessary” for the PC Party to make a deal-with-the-devil by merging with Reform is the first-past-the-post electoral system. If we had proportional representation or even just a preferential ballot, this so-called “merger” (nothing more than a hostile takeover of the Tory tradition by far-right Amero-Conservatives) would have been completely unnecessary. If not for first-past-the-post, there would still be a Progressive-Conservative Party in Parliament today. I would actually have a party to vote for.” – Christopher Murrie

Canadian media have reported that [2] [vote swapping is legal].

Both groups declare that vote swapping or pairing is not the ideal way to run a democracy, but as a useful tool to gradually bringing about electoral reforms that are critically needed in Canada. Parties losing influence over their own supporters should quickly realize they need more expressive ballots and mechanisms to lure the frustrated voter back from vote swapping to trust the party's own process.


  • [3] [Pair Vote]
  • [4] [Vote Swap Canada]
  • [5] [Facebook site - Vote Swap Canada]
  • [6] [ Online vote swaps not illegal: Elections Canada]