Voters, eh? What are they like? You can give them all the information in the world about how to vote but yet they will still have the temerity to make up their own minds. How many times have we seen a post election scolding from unsuccessful candidates and parties berating an electorate for not doing as required? The simple truth is that regardless of the quantity and quality of election literature put about by parties voters have a pretty good idea of what they want, and that does’t always neatly align with parties expectations.
Over the weekend postal votes started to go out for the council elections as we get down to the business end of this particular contest. This is an election determined by the Single Transferable Vote, a system designed to strike fear into the heart of even the most seasoned psephologist. STV is just one of the four different types of electoral systems we use in Scotland, and or me, STV is perhaps the most elegant. STV more or less delivers proportionality and it empowers voters in a way that others don’t by giving the ability to rank candidates according to preference. The only thing is it is incredibly complicated. As we know to our cost in Perth and Kinross the candidate with the most first preference votes doesn’t always get elected. That’s because each winning candidate has to reach a threshold determined by a formula dependent on the total number of votes cast divided by the number of available seats in the ward plus one. You keeping up….? Don’t worry. I do this for a living and I find it all incredibly difficult. The important point is that your vote has a value beyond your first preference.
Because of our multi varied electoral environment, political parties keep their messaging as simple as possible to maximise their support. So in the SNP we would say ‘both votes SNP’ or in the case of these elections ‘SNP 1 and 2’ to avoid any chance of confusion. This is the core message and if we want voters to take one thing from all the competing demands it is this. Anything more than 4 or 5 words would as well being War and Peace.
In these elections most voters will vote for their party of choice and leave it at that, and that is absolutely fine. However, increasingly voters want to use their vote intuitively with the intention of shaping the final outcome and damaging candidates and parties they don’t like.
This is where ‘Vote Till You Boak’ comes in. VTYB comes from STV savvy Northern Ireland and helped nationalist parties deny unionists a majority by ranking nationalist candidates at the top and unionists at the bottom. Increasingly it is being adopted in Scotland.
In Scotland the political spectrum for those of an SNP persuasion ranges from the SNP all the way down to the Tories. Our boak list would be a matter of placing parties in a descending order of increasing nausea until all are ranked.
‘You’re not seriously asking us to vote for the Tories, are you Pete’ I hear you gently enquire? The answer to that is a decisive ‘No’. What we are asking you to do is put them in last place. If you only vote for your first preference then you remove yourself from the contests further down the line. You will have no say in whether a Tory gets in ahead of a less unpalatable independent for example.
The top of the list is pretty straight forward – SNP 1 and 2, or maybe even 3. We will also give advice on how you can maximise the chances of getting all SNP candidates elected by suggesting a voting order. How candidates are ranked after that will be a matter of individual preference (as long as the Tories are at the bottom, of course). In my case after the SNP I will vote for candidates that support independence and our Government. So that will be the Greens, indy supporting independents and maybe one of these small number of Labour candidates that are indy supporting.
Then I will vote for any fringe anti SNP ‘indy harming’ independence candidates from parties such as Alba. On the nausea scale at this stage my stomach may well be starting to churn as I put a ranking next to parties who bring such damage and division to our cause. I know that many SNP voters will find it hard to rank Alba candidates after the tirades of abuse and disgusting things their activists say on social media about our First Minister, but it is important that you rank them before the unionists.
Then we get to the full on dry boak. On my list I would have a look at the remaining independents then Labour, then Liberal, and then with great pleasure I will place the Tory in last place. Then I will reach for the liver salts…
We could well see a bumper turn out at these elections as many Scottish voters want to give the Tories an electoral kick-in following all the revelations about party gate. Putting the Tories last in an STV election is as close as we get to being able to register a vote against them. So vote well and vote wisely. Most importantly Vote Until You Boak.