Voting and technology

Much has been written bout the impact of collaboration and social networks on the election south of the border. The allure of Obama vs. McCain, not to mention their respective approaches towards technology makes for an interesting case study.

But if you’re Canadian and concerned that either the current Conservative government will get a majority hold of Parliament, or conversely concerned that it will fail to do so, then there are several appropriate story lines to follow up North. The first is a growing Facebook group called ‘Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada,’ which now boasts over 12,000 members.

The group works as follows:

“In a completely legal fashion, it allows voters in different ridings to swap votes to best ensure the Conservatives don’t win. Almost anyone who is opposed the Conservatives can take part. If your preferred party has no chance in your riding (or if they are absolutely certain of winning) you can use your vote elsewhere to help candidates from the same party beat the Tories, while at the same time voting strategically to stop the Tories in your own riding.”

Now who knows how many of those 12,000 members will actually follow through on their swap pledge (and how strong the honour system this site is built upon is) but nonetheless the concept is intriguing and potentially disruptive for the assumed favourites. A few months ago University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist wrote that 27 MP’s across Canada (9% of all MPs) had won their ridings by less than 1000 votes.  The potential impact of vote swap is thus rather significant.

The second example is . Like the former example, it takes aim at the Conservative government, this time for their environmental record. Their strategy is similar to Vote Swap as it highlights closely contested swing ridings and recommends to would-be voters which of the opposition parties in those ridings would be best positioned to win the riding in the Oct. 14 election. For example, the site highlights one riding in East Toronto and notes that a “This is a Liberal/Conservative race. The NDP can’t win. We recommend voting for Liberal candidate Michael Ignatieff.”

Evidently this raises some rather important questions about the strength of our democracy and the different values of a vote across the country but it also points to the increasing strength of weak ties and their ability to coalesce around issues of importance to effect change from outside of the formal system.

As Kevin Grandia, the creator of, notes: “It really doesn’t matter what the politicians say anymore. It really doesn’t matter what the mainstream media is saying about these issues because we have a massive online conversation about climate change, about environment and about strategic voting going on across the country.


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