Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Things They Should Invent (or tell us if it already works this way): ranked ballots that you can use to vote for or against

I like the idea of ranked ballots, but I'm not clear on what happens if you don't rank all the candidates. The last Toronto mayoral race had like 60ish candidates, and I certainly couldn't put that many candidates in order!  (And even if you could, they'd have to let you bring notes into the voting booth!)

The way I want ranked ballots to work is to let me rank some candidates positively, and some candidates negatively. If I think Candidate A is the best and Candidates B and C are also acceptable, and I think Candidate Z is the worst possible candidate and Candidates X and Y are also unacceptable, and I have no opinion about the other candidates, I want to be able to indicate that with my ballot.

However, as it stands, I don't know if I can do that. I don't know the ranked ballot handles the candidate I rank last compared with candidates I don't rank at all.  (In fact, I don't know if we're even allowed to not rank some of the candidates.)

What I want is either:

1) I rank Candidate Z 60 out of 60, that makes it clear that I think Candidate Z is worse than all the other candidates and the results are weighted accordingly
 or
2) I rank Candidate Z -1, and that cancels out someone else's +1 vote for Candidate Z.

You should be able to rank all the candidates positively or all the candidates negatively, or any combination thereof. 

You also should be able to vote negative only without making a positive vote, because there could be situations where it's more important to stop Candidate Z from winning than to have any specific other candidate win. 

In my ward's last city councillor race, we had the incumbent, and three invisible challengers.  I couldn't find any information whatsoever about the challengers. If, hypothetically, I had thought that the incumbent was harmful to the ward, I wouldn't have had any way of figuring out how I should vote to replace him.  But if I could either rank him last or rank him negatively, then my ballot could reflect the actual situation.

I can't propose a specific way to modify ranked ballot voting to allow for "against" votes because I don't know enough details about how they work already.  But proponents of ranked ballots should either figure out a way to do this, or, if it can already be done, publicize that fact.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Why do politicians want people to telephone them?

Recently, a greater than usual amount of instructions for political activism has been reaching me, and a common theme seems to be to telephone politicians. The instructions are to tell the person who answers the phone that you would like the politician to take or stop taking a particular action, and tell them any personal stories that support this request.

But why on earth would the telephone be the optimal medium for political activism?

If you telephone an elected official's office, someone has to answer the call. If you tell them an anecdote, someone has to write it down.  If they have a case tracking system, the person who answers the phone has to enter their notes into the case tracking system. The whole process moves at the speed of human speech, and is subject to transcription errors on the part of the person answering the phone, and dictation errors (as well as general human error and any lack of preparedness that's borne of inexperience) on the part of the person making the call. This is especially egregious because less-experienced phone-callers have to write up a script for themselves, which they read to the phone-answerer, who transcribes it into whatever system the political office uses.

But if you send them an email, the message will reach your political official (or enter their automated system) in your own words, either by copy-paste or through an automated algorithm. No human intervention, no possibility of human error, and also no staffing expenses to deal with your inquiry. It's faster for political staff (reading is faster than typing) and might also be no less slow for the citizen if - like me - they'd have to write up a script before making a phone call, or - like me - they can type at the speed of speech anyway. There's no human error, because your very own words either reach the politico directly or are entered into the automated system. From the point of view of the politico, they can get their constituents' POV straight from the constituents' mouth, and/or get their constituents' POV without having to pay the salary of political staff who run itnerference.

So how did it come about that a telephone call is considered the most effective way to reach politicians?

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

It should always work this way





Saturday, February 11, 2017

What if different kinds of lies were like apples and oranges?

Conventional wisdom is that politicians lie.

But when we say this, we usually mean "They don't keep their electoral promises." They say they're going to do something and then they don't, or they say they aren't going to do something and then they do.

But sometimes politicians lie about objective, observable facts.  And this is a problem, because they aren't just stating objectively incorrect information, they're also using the objectively incorrect information as a basis for questionable policy.

For example, a politician says there are more libraries than Tim Hortonses in their area, and therefore libraries should be cut. However, the fact of the matter is that there are more Tim Hortonses than libraries in their area.  And even if there were more libraries than Tim Hortonses, that wouldn't necessarily be a problem. And even if the ratio were a problem, perhaps the solution would be more Tim Hortonses.  And maybe the ratio is even a problem the other way - maybe there aren't enough libraries.  One possibility is that there are more libraries than Tim Hortonses but still not enough libraries (for example, if there were two libraries and one Tim Hortons, that wouldn't be enough libraries for the entire city.)

It creates a stream of hypotheticals that the people least likely to be willing or able to stay fully informed are least likely to be willing or able to follow. If you focus on debunking the clear, objective lie (more libraries than Tim Hortonses), you're implying that the problematic logic that follows (that more libraries than Tim Hortonses would be a problem, that libraries should be cut) is not a problem. If you focus on the problematic conclusions, you're implying that the false premise is accurate and failing to call out the politician for a glaring objective falsehood.

But not enough people see this lying about objective facts as a massive deal-breaker problem that needs to be immediately and drastically nipped in the bud, because we're coming from this baseline conventional wisdom that of course politicians lie.

This makes me wonder how our political discourse would be different if these different kinds of lies were completely different concepts in our language and concept system. We can, of course, describe the different kinds of lies that exist using words and phrases, like I've done above, but they're all lies.  What would happen if they were different concepts, like apples and oranges? Yes, apples and oranges have things in common (they're both round and sweet and edible, they both fall into the broader category of "fruit" in our concept system), but they're clearly different things in our concept system.

If different kinds of lies were apples and oranges, no one would say "Of course that politician is oranging, everyone knows that politicians always apple." No one would say "Why are you calling out that politician for oranging but not that other politician for appling?"  People could be aghast that the politician oranged without even having to address the conventional wisdom that politicians apple, because they're two completely different concepts.

I wonder what our political discourse would look like then?

I wonder if there are any languages where different types of lies are completely discrete concepts?  I wonder if the cultures where those languages are spoken also have the conventional wisdom that politicians lie?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A solution to the bringing kids to demonstrations dilemma

I've always had mixed feelings about bringing children too young to develop an independent opinion on the issues to political demonstrations.

On one hand, bringing your kid to a demonstration is modelling political participation, just like bringing your kid with you to vote. And a demonstration is also a part of regular life, like taking your kid with you grocery shopping.

But, on the other hand, participating in a demonstration (especially if you're holding a sign, chanting the chants, etc.) implies having a certain opinion on a certain issue, and some kids are simply too young to have developed an opinion.

On top of that, children tend to make for good pictures, so there's a high likelihood that kids at demonstrations will end up with a photo of them on the internet holding a sign that may or may not reflect the opinion they develop independently once they become savvy enough to do so.

So far, the best idea I've been able to think of is that kids at demonstrations shouldn't be photographed, which helps contain the issue but doesn't completely address it. (Although I have no objection to any policy that protects kids - or people of any age, really - from having their pictures posted on the internet without their informed consent.)

But the other day, my Twitter feed gave me a much better idea:

Kids participating in demonstrations must write their own signs, without any adult input about content or messaging. 

I'll allow adults transcribing the kid's message (only at the kid's request) if the kid's printing and spelling skills haven't caught up with what they want their sign to say, but the content of the sign must be entirely the kid's idea, and the kid must be permitted to use their own sign regardless of whether it's consistent with the demonstration's messaging.

Here are two delightful examples of this phenomenon that were tweeted into my feed. They can also been seen on imgur here and here.






As you can see, the kids are clearly expressing their own ideas rather than mindlessly regurgitating what the adults around them are saying. But they still get to proudly participate in the social and cultural experience of a demonstration, even if they don't have independent understanding of the issues, without expressing any ideas that they wouldn't if they had independent understanding of the issues. And, despite the fact that they're off-message, they don't take away from the message of the demonstration, and, in fact, add to its credibility by making it look like an inclusive family event.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Alternatives to political debates

I've been thinking for some time that debates between political candidates aren't particularly useful, because they don't reflect the actual work of being a political leader.  Political leaders aren't (or shouldn't be) spending their days arguing with someone advocating for a different policy platform, they are (or should be) their days providing leadership to get shit done, often with an irritatingly finite budget and a politically divided legislature.  Instead of debates (or, if people insist, in addition to debates), candidates should have to do televised activities to reflect that.

My shower has given me two ideas so far:

1. Assembling Ikea furniture:  The candidate has the instructions but can't touch the actual furniture parts or tools. The candidate oversees a team of people who are allowed to touch the parts and tools but aren't allowed to look at the instructions.  The candidate has to effectively communicate what needs doing to the team. To up the difficulty level, maybe there are multiple pieces of furniture to be assembled and the parts are all mixed in together. Maybe there's one or more parts missing, or one or more parts extra.  Maybe the other team has the missing parts!

2. Scavenger hunt: The candidates are given a list of things to find (impossible ideal: a randomly-generated subset of all the things in the world), a specific budget, and a team of people. Their mission is to bring all the things to a designated location.  The crucial thing about this scavenger hunt is that it is not designed to be logistically feasible. Some items might be more expensive than the budget allows for. Some items might be extremely difficult to move. Some items might belong to someone who is reluctant to give them up or sell them or lend them.  Maybe the last surviving white rhino is on the list. Maybe the Stone of Scone is on the list. Maybe the Pope's underwear is on the list. (As well as easier things like a pink paperclip or a ferret or a bottle of EKU 28.) And the candidates and their teams have to plan and strategize and persuade to figure out how to get all these things, in time and under budget, despite whatever obstacles exist.

In both cases, there are several options for who is on each candidate's team. Maybe they have a team of randomly selected politicians they'll have to work with, e.g. MPs if this is a contest between prospective Prime Ministers. Maybe they have a team randomly selected from a group of volunteers - people volunteer to be part of this, but which candidate's team they're on (or if they're selected at all) is left up to chance. Maybe the candidate gets to appoint their team. (I like the idea of a team partially randomly-selected and partially appointed, so we can see both how the candidates work with people who don't necessarily support them as well as the power of the candidate's metaphorical rolodex and the candidate's judgement in choosing a team.)

In all cases, the goal is not to see who finishes the task first or fastest, but rather to see how they handle the tasks. How do they elicit the desired performance from people who aren't necessarily enthusiastic allies? How do they deal with obstacles and frustrations? How do they deal with limited resources?  What are their responsibility and blame dynamics like?

Ideally, these challenges wouldn't be scored and wouldn't be set up to necessarily have a clear winner.  The goal is to let voters observe the process and see just what kinds of leaders these candidates would make.


Can you think of any other activities that would be similarly useful in achieving this goal?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Things They Should Study: do political positions correlate with attitudes towards politically-incompatible celebrities?

Sometimes the celebrities I follow on Twitter get people telling them to shut up about politics and stick to entertainment.

This is something I find difficult to understand. 

I do see why someone might not want incompatible political opinions turning up in their Twitter feed.  But what I don't understand is why you'd want to keep following someone once you know that they hold these incompatible opinions.

When someone has incompatible politics (by which I don't mean simply that I don't agree with them, but rather that I see their position as outright harmful and/or cruel) I'm not able to respect them enough to be a fan of them. I cease to be interested in their day-to-day life and thoughts, and most likely in their work as well.  Even if for some reason I do maintain interest in their work (for example, perhaps if one member of an ensemble cast for a major fandom has incompatible politics) I no longer have any desire to hear from them as an individual, just to see the finished work.

It would be interesting to study this on a broader level.  Are there any patterns of the political opinions or affiliation of people who want to continue following politically-incompatible celebrities but not hear about their politics, as compared with people who lose interest in politically-incompatible celebrities, as compared with people who can cheerfully continue following a celebrity without regard for their incompatible politics.

They could also study whether there are patterns in real-life relationships as opposed to celebrity-fan relationships, but I find the celebrity-fan relationship particularly interesting because it's unidirectional. If a parent holds political opinions you consider harmful, there's an element of "How can you bring a child into the world and then work politically to make the world a worse place?" But the celebrity has no loyalty or attachment to the individual fan and the fan adores the celebrity, so it's an interesting and unique dynamic.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Things They Should Invent: objective quality and maintenance standards for official residences

With the change of government and arrival of a new Prime Minister, 24 Sussex Drive has been in the news again.  Apparently it's in very poor condition and in need of extensive repairs, renovations and upgrades, but successive Prime Ministers have been reluctant to have the work done because they don't want to be seen spending public money on their residence.

A solution would be to set objective standards both for the quality level that needs to be maintained and the amount that needs to be invested in upgrade and renovating the building.  These standards would be set by people who are experts in building maintenance and heritage preservation, without any involvement by political leaders, so the Prime Minister (or, whenever possible, the National Capital Commission) is just following the rules.

As a starting point, here's a basic framework my shower gave me:

1. Baseline state-of-good-repair standard: This is your basic health, safety, functionality, and "this is the 21st century" standard. If the building doesn't meet this standard, it is to be immediately brought up to standard regardless of the price.  For example, the building needs to be free of asbestos and other poisons, have no leaks or infestations, warmer than 20 degrees in the winter and cooler than 25 degrees in the summer, etc.  Could be based on or inspired by similar existing standards for rental housing, public buildings, etc.  The decision to carry out these repairs is made without the involvement of the Prime Minister or their family, similar to how tenants often get notices from their landlords saying "We will be turning off the water for three hours on Tuesday to repair a leak." The baseline state-of-good-repair standard is reviewed and updated at a fixed interval, by non-political people who are qualified to make this kind of decision, to make sure it still reflects modern baseline expectations for housing and public buildings.

2. New resident refurbishment allowance: Every time a new Prime Minister moves in, they are permitted to spend a certain legislated amount of money adapting the house to their family's needs.  One option is that they're allowed to spend up to a certain limit on changes from a list approved by the National Capital Commission.  An option with less political fall-out (inspired by employers who give employees on business trips a per diem rather than having them file expense receipts) is to simply hand over the allowance, have the National Capital Commission provide a list of what changes are and aren't permitted, and the Prime Minister's family can do whatever they need to.  It might actually be more efficient that way by saving on red tape justifying why they need to paint this room yellow or put heavier curtains in that room.  The amount of the new resident refurbishment allowance is reviewed and updated at a fixed interval, by non-political people who are qualified to make this kind of decision, to make sure it still reflects the needs of a family moving into a new home.

3. Regularly scheduled renovation/upgrade fund: A set amount of money is available at a set interval for whatever renovations/upgrades the building needs most, beyond state of good repair.  The renovations/upgrades are decided jointly by the National Capital Commission and a representative of the current Prime Minister's household. (The optics would be better if there's a housekeeper or someone like that who is very familiar with how well the building works and fulfills its functions but doesn't benefit personally from any upgrades, but if there isn't any such person any resident would do.)  The amount of this fund is reviewed and updated at a fixed interval, by non-political people who are qualified to make this kind of decision. Depending on the amount and the frequency with which it is used, it may be permissible to bank it for later use, or borrow from the next round, if a major expense should arise.  Not every Prime Minister's household is necessarily involved in using this fund - just whoever happens to be Prime Minister when the time to use the fund rolls around. For example, if the fund is only used in years ending in 3, then Jean Chr├ętien's household would have used it twice (in 1993 and in 2003), but Paul Martin's household never would have used it.

In addition to these amounts, the Prime Minister's family is permitted to spend their own money as long as the changes they make meet the approval of the National Capital Commission.

Because the quantities and frequencies of investment are legislated (or, at least, set out in some kind of official policy), it wouldn't be the Prime Minister's fault that the money is spent - the rules are just being followed.  (The rules could be written in such a way that it is the National Capital Commission that is required to spend the money, not the Prime Minister's household.)  And this heritage building would be kept in decent conditions and be able to fulfill its official and ceremonial functions without being a source of national embarrassment.

This framework could also be used for other official residences, just replace "Prime Minister" with the dignitary who resides there and "National Capital Commission" with the organization responsible for managing the residence.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Post-election round-up

Campaigning that reached me:

- 1 flyer from each candidate in my mailbox or under my door
- Multiple phone calls from each candidate. The NDP candidate left a message (which I think is a strategic error - many people find voicemails annoying) but the others didn't. I do appreciate the fact that all candidates phone lines that display their names on call display so I could screen accordingly.
- A man in a red t-shirt knocked on my apartment door at once point. I don't know if he was a Liberal canvasser or just a strange man who happened to be wearing a red shirt, because I don't open my door to strangers.
- I saw only one sign in my riding, for the Liberal incumbent, but it was taken down when the house was sold.  I also saw one sign each for the Liberal and NDP candidates in windows of an apartment building in an adjacent riding.  (Yes, even with riding distribution, my neighbourhood is still irritatingly fragmented among multiple ridings.)
- My candidates were really irritating on Twitter.  They kept sniping at each other and subtweeting. I felt like a kid trapped in the back seat of a car while family members argued.

Traditional post-election simulator tests:

Using the percentages available on the Elections Canada site, the simulators produce the following results:

Too Close to Call

Liberal: 138
Conservative: 120
NDP: 71
BQ: 8
Green: 1

Hill+Knowlton

Liberal: 131
Conservative: 126
NDP: 78
BQ: 2
Green: 1

(Also, was the Hill+Knowlton simulator really annoying for anyone else this year? It kept jumping around on the page every time I moved a slider.)

Actual results:

Liberal: 184
Conservative: 99
NDP: 44
BQ: 10
Green: 1

As with the last federal election, the prediction and simulation models don't seem able to properly process surges.

Thoughts on the results:

I'm still pondering this surprisingly large shift from NDP to Liberals.  Did a whole bunch of people feel moved to vote for the Liberals or against the NDP?  Was it because the Liberals were campaigning left and the NDP was campaigning right, as happened in the last Ontario election? (Although it seemed to me that this shift wasn't nearly as strong as in the last Ontario election.)  None of these phenomena seemed pronounced enough to cause such a drastic shift.  Or were so many people strategically voting against the Conservatives incorrectly (i.e. by using national polls rather than looking at the situation in their riding) that it actually ended up being correct?

If it's the latter, I certainly hope the new government's statement about this being the last "first past the post" election proves to be correct, because adding the factor of other people who might strategically vote incorrectly to your strategic voting strategy is just too complicated! 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Voters' Resources (Canada 2015 edition)

This post is post-dated. If the date and time indicated for this post have not yet passed, there may be new material below it.

Getting Started

Election Day is October 19!

First, go to the Elections Canada website and type in your postal code to find out if you're registered to vote, your riding, your candidates, and where to vote.

If you have not received your voter information card, you can still vote on election day, you just need to take ID. Note that ID requirements have changed since last election. However, you do not necessarily need photo ID.

Your employer has to give you enough time off to ensure that you have three consecutive hours off during polling hours.

Issues

The web design trends of 2015 make it difficult to provide a single link directly to parties' platforms (although they're reasonably easy to navigate to visually), so this time I'm providing links to the parties' official websites.

Bloc Quebecois
Conservative Party
Green Party
Liberal Party
New Democratic Party


To help you figure out which party is best for you:

CBC Vote Compass
Political Compass: compare your results on the test with the Canadian political parties chart
I Side With
Maclean's Policy Face-Off

Not all these tools use the same issues or interpret the platforms or relative positions of the parties exactly the same way. It's useful to take all of them and see where they differ, see where they surprise you, and use that information to focus your research.

Strategy and Predictions

My "How to Vote"
My "Where to Vote"
My "How to Vote Strategically"

Riding-by-riding predictions to help you with strategy:

- The Election Prediction Project
- Hill and Knowlton Election Quarterback (previously called Election Predictor). You need to input poll data into this tool. Poll data is widely available in the media, and in some of the other tools linked here.
- ThreeHundredEight
- LISPOP
- Too Close To Call
- Toronto Star election forecaster. For individual riding projections, scroll down to "Riding Projections", then select your province from the Y axis of the chart.

Other interesting sources

- Pundits' Guide
- Election Almanac

This post will be updated through to Election Day as I find more information. Do you know of anything else that should be included here? Are any of the links dead? Let me know in the comments!

Voted

I dressed in my usual black and purple election day outfit, but then decided to violate my "no party colours" rule by wearing my late grandmother's birthstone ring.  She was a huge fan of voting (and of dogs), so I thought it would be appropriate to bring her with me.

As in previous years, I planned the longest justifiable route, with some errands along the way, to maximize my opportunity to pet dogs.  (For those of you just tuning in, the more dogs I pet on the way to vote, the better the election outcome.)

But zero dog-petting opportunities presented themselves!  The dogs kept being led away from the sidewalk onto the grass, or across the street from me, or otherwise on trajectories that I couldn't reasonably intercept.  The only interceptable dog I encountered was in the middle of pooing! 

I began to wonder if I'd thrown off equilibrium with the ring, so I went home (perfectly justifiable! I was carrying groceries and there was a line-up outside my polling station!), put the groceries in the fridge, and took off the ring. I'm still not sure if that was the right decision. Then I proceeded to the polling station by a perfectly reasonable route that happens to have high dog potential.

It did have high dog potential, but, again, none of them were interceptable. I saw like 20 dogs in 2 short blocks, and I couldn't reasonably pet any of them. In desperation, I passed a shade too close to a large dog that was part of a family with a crying baby, trailing my fingers a shade lower than natural in the hopes of getting a quick pet in even though they clearly didn't want to stop because they wanted to get home and take care of their baby.  But I misestimated our respective heights and missed.

The line to enter the polling station reached outside, which I've never seen before.  I had a voter's card, so once I was inside I was directed straight to my poll.  There was no one else waiting for that poll, so I was in and out in two minutes.  However, there was a very long line-up for people who didn't have voter's cards.

This means lots of new people are voting.  I hope that's enough to outweight the back lock of zero dog pettings.

Monday, October 12, 2015

How to Vote Strategically

This post is part of my Voters' Resources post.

Some people vote for the party whose platform they find most suitable (the Best Party). If that's what you're trying to do, this post isn't for you. Go vote for the Best Party.

Other people try to prevent the party whose platform they find most harmful (the Worst Party) from being elected, by voting for the party that's most likely to defeat the Worst Party (the Compromise Party). This is called strategic voting.

The most important thing about strategic voting is that your strategy has to apply to the reality in your riding. The media feeds us national polls for breakfast every day, but they're not directly relevant. Regardless of what the rest of the country is doing, your vote will only be used to elect the MP for your own riding. If your riding is already disinclined to elect the Worst Party, there's no point in a strategic vote - you'd just end up making the Compromise Party look more popular than they really are.

So here's what to do if your priority is stopping the Worst Party from winning:

1. Ask yourself: "If I don't vote, who's going to win in this particular riding?"

If the answer is a party other than the Worst Party, vote for the Best Party. If the answer is "the Worst Party" or "it's too close to tell," go on to step 2.

2. Ask yourself: "If I don't vote, who's most likely to defeat the Worst Party in this particular riding?"

This is your Compromise Party. Read their platform. If it's acceptable, vote for the Compromise Party. If it's not acceptable, vote for the Best Party.

Remember: ignore the national polls; think only about the situation in your riding!

So now you're thinking:

"But how do I figure out what's going to happen in my riding?"

There are a number of resources to help you do this. Check them all out and see what they say about your riding.

- The Election Prediction Project
- Hill and Knowlton Election Quarterback (previously called Election Predictor). You need to input poll data into this tool. Poll data is widely available in the media, and in some of the other tools linked here.
- ThreeHundredEight
- LISPOP
- How did your neighbourhood vote? (If you're voting strategically, you still have to look at the whole riding rather than the individual polls, but this is still interesting)
- Too Close To Call
- Toronto Star election forecaster. For individual riding projections, scroll down to "Riding Projections", then select your province from the Y axis of the chart.

Prediction sites update constantly, and I will be updating this list as I find more prediction sites, so check back again closer to election day.  Know of any sites I missed? Share a link in the comments!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Where to Vote

This post is part of my Voters' Resources post.

Some people (such as university students renting housing in the community where they go to school or have a summer job who also still have their parents' house as their "permanent address") are in a situation where they could legitimately vote in one of two possible ridings.  This post is intended to help them decide where to vote.

Note that voter ID requirements have changed since the last federal election. Current ID requirements can be found here.)

Where to Vote:

1. If one of the ridings is a really close race, vote in that riding. If both are close, vote in the riding with the closest race. If neither is really close, follow the instructions below.

2. Of the parties running candidates in your riding, decide which one has the best platform that comes closest to meeting your needs and your vision for the province (hereafter the Best Party). Then decide which one has the worst platform that is furthest from meeting your needs and deviates the most from your vision for the province (hereafter the Worst Party). You are judging the parties as a whole, not the individual candidates in your riding. Assess each party individually without regard to possible strategic voting - that comes later.

3. Based on your own needs and your own vision for the province, decide whether it is more important to you that the Best Party win, or that the Worst Party does not win.

4. If it's more important to you that the Best Party win, vote for the Best Party in the riding where the Best Party is least likely to win.

5. If it's more important to you that the Worst Party not win, and the Worst Party has a chance in either of your ridings, vote for the party most likely to defeat the Worst Party in the riding where the Worst Party is most likely to win.

6. If the Worst Party doesn't have a chance in either of your ridings, vote for the Best Party in the riding where the Best Party is least likely to win.

Tools to help you figure out which party is most likely to win in your ridings can be found in the How to Vote Strategically post.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How to Vote

This post is part of my Voters' Resources post.

1. Of the parties running candidates in your riding, decide which one has the best platform that comes closest to meeting your needs and your vision of Canada (hereinafter the Best Party). Then decide which one has the worst platform that is furthest from meeting your needs and deviates the most from your vision of Canada (hereinafter the Worst Party). You are judging the parties as a whole, not the individual candidates in your riding. Assess each party individually without regard to possible strategic voting - that comes later.

2. Based on your own needs and your own vision for Canada, decide whether it is more important to you that the Best Party win, or that the Worst Party does not win.

3. If it is more important to you that the Best Party wins, vote for the Best Party. If not, continue to the next step.

4. If it is more important to you that the Worst Party does not win, assess the Worst Party's chances of winning in your riding. Not in the country as a whole, just in your riding. If you feel that there's too great a risk of the Worst Party winning in your riding, vote for the party most likely to defeat the Worst Party. If you feel the risk of the Worst Party winning in your riding is acceptably low, vote for the Best Party.

Remember: do NOT use national polls to inform any strategic voting you might choose to do. Your vote is only effective in your riding. No matter how earnestly you vote, you cannot cancel out votes in another riding. Vote strategically only if the situation in your very own riding demands it, regardless of what the rest of the country is doing.

Links to party platforms will be provided in the upcoming Voter's Resources post. Further information on how to assess parties' chances in your riding and other aspects of effective strategic voting are provided in the How To Vote Strategically post.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Things They Should Invent: reconcile Vote Compass and Political Compass

When I took the Vote Compass quiz, I was surprised to see that the relative positions of the Green Party, Liberal Party and NDP were different from their relative positions on Political Compass.

I want to make it clear: I'm not complaining that one of the axes is inverted (although it is) or that the scales are different (although they are).  I'm saying that the positions of the parties relative to each other are different on the two tools.

On Vote Compass, the Green Party was the furthest left economically.  In other words, if you drew a line of best fit through the plot of all the parties, their order, from left to right, would be Green, NDP, Liberal and Conservative

On Political Compass, NDP was furthest left economically.  In other words, if you drew a line of best fit through the plot of all the parties, their order, from left to right, would be NDP, Green, Liberal and Conservative.

They can't both be right. Someone, somewhere, must be missing something.  And it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, for an ordinary voter to figure out who might be missing what.

I'd love to see the Vote Compass people and the Political Compass people get together, discuss their interpretations of the platforms, and arrive at a consensus about the relative positions of the parties.

Both tools are trying to achieve the same thing - trying to give voters objective information about which parties best align with their own political views. They could better achieve this, and appear more objective and more credible, by pooling their respective expertise and arriving at a consensus.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Things They Should Invent: tournament-style mayoral debates

In this past election, Toronto had a ridiculous number of mayoral candidates and a ridiculous number of mayoral debates.

But, for the vast majority of debates, only the handful of candidates deemed "mainstream" by the media are invited, with the dozens and dozens of others being completely ignored.

This is a waste of perfectly good scheduled debate time!  What's the point of having such a ridiculous number of debates if you aren't going to host all the candidates?

Therefore, I propose tournament style mayoral debates.  During the first few months, candidates debate each other in a round robin sort of format, so as many people as possible debate as many people as possible.  Then the people who have won the most debates move on to debate the other people who have won the most debates, until the top debates in the city are facing each other towards the end of the election period.

I'm picturing a sort of World Cup format for this, but it wouldn't be exactly the same because debates most often have more than 2 people.  And a true round robin might not be possible, depending on the math.  But, in any case, they should do whatever most convenient mathematically and scheduling-wise to get as many people as possible to debate as many people as possible.

So how do we determine who won a particular debate and gets to move on in the debate-offs?  My first thought is an audience vote - perhaps just in person, perhaps both in person and online.  But I don't know if that could be over-influenced by candidates stacking the audience. 

Another idea is a panel of judges.   But would they assess the candidates objectively, or would they favour the big names?  Although, the existing system already favours the big names, so could it be any worse?

What if audience members are assigned tickets to a debate, but they don't know who's going to be debating at the time they sign up for tickets (which would make it impossible to stack the audience).  But would enough people actually go to debates where they don't know who's debating?

Another alternative would be not to vote on winners of individual debates.  Candidates round-robin, the videos are posted online, and online viewers can vote for which candidates they'd like to see debate some more.  But, again, how could we prevent candidates from stacking the votes?

I haven't fully worked this out.  But the fact remains: if we must have dozens of candidates and dozens of debates, all candidates should get to debate.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Voted

A non-descript fall day for a very descript municipal election.

As I've blogged about before, I have a superstition that I need to pet a dog on the way to vote in order to get a good election outcome.  I had a couple of errands to do on my lunch hour, so I tucked my voting card into my purse just in case I met any auspicious doggies.  But, to my surprise, I only even saw one dog, and it wasn't in a place where I could pet it!

Worried by this uncharacteristic shortage of dogs (I usually see 2 or 3 dogs at any time of the day or night), I started planning the route I'd take to the polling station after work, to maximize the chance of encountering a pettable doggie.  The polling station is extremely close to my home - just a couple of buildings down the street, and then through a pedestrian pathway to the other side of the block.  But surely walking down the actual street rather than along the pedestrian pathway is a perfectly reasonable act, right?  Even if it increases the distance I had to walk by 50%?  And when I worked in the office I'd always do my after-work errands before voting, so it's perfectly justified to do that today, right? And so on and so on until I'd justified walking at least three times the distance, possibly meandering through some side streets, in the hope that I'd encounter a pettable dog.

I needn't have worried. Directly en route to the polling station, I saw an adorable little dog who stopped walking and sat down on the sidewalk.  "Awww, you don't want to go any more?" I squeed at him, and full-fledged petting ensued, with the doggie's enthusastic consent and the owner smiling.  So then, my mission accomplished, I walked straight to the polling station, only to discover there was another doggie tied up outside the polling station! When I said "Hi doggie!" he thumped his tail and smiled at me, so I gave him a pet too.

Two perfectly organic dog pets, not contrived at all, would totally have happened if I'd been walking the same route without a superstitious reason to pet dogs.  I hope that bodes well.


***

One actual election-related note: there are these security folders that we put the ballots in before they feed them into the ballot counting machine.  Problem: the ballot is longer than the folder, so if you voted for one of the bottom few people on the ballot, your vote will be visible despite the security folder!

The strange thing is the ballot is so long in the first place because there are so many mayoral candidates.  The mayoral candidates are divided into two columns, but there isn't an even number in each column - there's way more in the first column!  If they'd made the two columns even, the ballots would have fit in the folder.

Alternatively, if there was some compelling technical reason why they couldn't have adjusted the format of the ballot, why couldn't they get longer folders?

***

Despite my attempts to find my councillor candidates,  no platforms for any of the challengers ever emerged.  I got like a hundred hits a day on that post - far more than the rest of my blog combined - so I'm certainly not the only one looking for them. Their target audience is ready and waiting, but they still won't show themselves.  And so the question remains: why did they bother? 

***

Edit, since I always record the campaigning that reaches me:

Signs seen: 1, for the incumbent councillor, plus one bus shelter ad (unfortunately negative) for mayoral candidate Oliva Chow
Robocalls: 2, for mayoral candidate (and eventual victor) John Tory. I disapprove of robocalls
Flyer: 1 in my mailbox for mayoral candidate Doug Ford, 2 under my door for the challenger trustee candidate, 2 under my door for the incumbent councillor, one of which was accmpanied by a knock on the door (which I didn't answer, because I don't answer the door to strangers, which is yet another reason why people should announce themselves as they knock on the door)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

All Toronto municipal candidates should publicly post their Vote Compass results

I was pleased to see that there's a Vote Compass for the Toronto mayoral election, but I was disappointed that it only compared your position with that of the three candidates that the media is treating as "mainstream".  There are 65 candidates for the position of mayor alone, to say nothing of all the councillor candidates whose platforms could also be charted on the same compass.

I suspect the Vote Compass people limited themselves to the top three simply for logistical purposes.  They have to analyze platforms, break them down into issues, place them on the scale, validate them with the candidates and the public...it would probably be impossible to do it for 65 candidates, even with our ridiculously protracted municipal elections.

So as an interim measure until someone can design a vote by issue that can accommodate dozens of candidates, I propose that all candidates should take the Vote Compass quiz and post their results publicly. Then voters whose positions on the various issues don't coincide with any of the top three candidates can see which of the many other candidates actually meet their needs.

It would be extra awesome if someone could compile all the candidates' answers in one place.  It's a bit late for this election, but maybe next election the Vote Compass people could do this!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Toronto Ward 22 Councillor candidates Sarfraz Khan, Bob Murphy and James O'Shaughnessy

Attention Sarfraz Khan, Bob Murphy, and James O'Shaughnessy:

I am a Ward 22 voter, and I don't feel I can vote for the position of councillor unless I know about more than one candidate's platform.

I haven't been able to find any of your platforms. They aren't listed on the City of Toronto Elections website, googleable, or findable on social media.

So please post your platform somewhere online, and inform the City of Toronto Elections people of its location so they can add it to their website.  If you create a twitter profile with a link to your platform, and put #topoli and #Ward 22 in the description, your electorate will find you. (Also, if you post it in the comments here, it will become googleable within a couple of days.)

By doing so, you'll be giving the people of Ward 22 an alternative to simply voting for the loudest person by default.

Friday, October 03, 2014

My municipal election voting dilemma

There are currently 4 candidates for city councillor in my ward: the incumbent and 3 challengers.

The incumbent has the expected online presence. But I can't find any trace of any of the 3 challengers.  I've googled with multiple combinations of keywords, I've searched social media, I've looked up possible matches on LinkedIn (multiple possibilities for each name, none of whom say they are running for city councillor).  Even the City of Toronto elections website that lists all the candidates for each ward doesn't have any contact information for them - not even an office phone number, just their name and ward number. None of the organizations and media outlets that send questionnaires to each candidate have gotten responses from any of the challengers (if they were in fact able to get in touch with the challengers).  None of the organizations that endorse candidates have endorsed in my ward.  I not only find no evidence of any of the challengers running a campaign, I find no evidence that anyone else has been able to get in touch with the challengers in their capacity as candidates.

If this situation persists, I'm left with a dilemma: should I vote for the incumbent, or for no one?

The incumbent's record is decent enough that I don't see a reason to try to unseat him, but it's quite plausible that there could be another candidate who aligns more closely with my views.  (There was in the last election.)  It's also quite plausible that none of the other candidates would align as closely with my views.  It all depends on what the other candidates' platforms are.

I don't think that simply showing up should be enough to win my vote.  Earlier in the race, the incumbent was the only council candidate for the ward.  I googled around the question of whether we'd still vote for councillor if there's only one candidate (wasn't able to find out conclusively), and decided during this process that I wouldn't vote for a candidate running unopposed.  I'd be okay with them winning, of course, but I wouldn't give them a vote just for being the only one there.

So, on one hand, I feel like I similarly shouldn't give a candidate my vote just for being the only one visible. But, on the other hand, they've clearly run the best campaign.  But, on the other other hand, what if they're not actually the best candidate?  But, on the other other other hand, how would I ever know?

Things They Should Study: why do people get themselves put on the ballot but not run a campaign?