Vote splitting can be a clever strategy

In both local and national elections voters are presented with more than one ballot paper. This presents them with the opportunity to split their vote.By Michael O’Donovan

In national elections voters are able to cast a vote for a party on the provincial ballot and vote for another party on the national ballot.  Obviously voters can also spoil one of the ballots. This is referred to as a split ballot.

In local government elections voters are presented with two or three ballots. In metropolitan areas, voters are given a ballot to select a ward councillor (an individual) and another ballot to select a political party (PR vote). Outside of metropolitan areas voters also have a third ballot where they select a political party to represent them on the  District Council. This presents individuals with an opportunity to split their votes in two or three ways. Typically votes are split when the voter has a preference for one political party (the PR list) but wants to support an independent ward candidate or a ward councillor who belongs to another party.

The ward representatives vote, which is based on a winner-takes-all system, is intended to ensure direct accountability of a councillor to that constituency. The PR vote is intended to ensure that small parties are represented in proportion to the number  of votes they receive.

Surveys of voters in earlier elections have indicted minimal levels of vote splitting. This said, every individual who votes for an independent candidate effectively splits their vote as independent candidates do not appear on the PR list.

While it is believed that very few voters deliberately split their vote the secrecy of the ballot ensures that the true extent of vote splitting cannot be known.

Nevertheless, vote splitting can be a clever strategy for those who support smaller parties and also don’t want their vote to be wasted.

If the ward candidate of your choice has no chance of winning that ward you can always vote for their party on the PR list and vote for another ward councillor. This may prevent a ward candidate you are averse to winning simply because  the opposing votes were spread across too many parties.


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