It would be fair to say that many Irish people don’t know how to vote properly. Sure, they turn up at the polling station and mark their ballot, but the fact that so many of them don’t fill in the ballot to the end, or nearly to the end, means that their vote never achieves its full effectiveness.
Put simply, the purpose of the Single Transferable Vote system is to help the voter eventually help elect a candidate they dislike marginally less then another fella. Simple as that. But in order to do it, one has to fill in nearly all the boxes.
Consider the European Election in Dublin. As a voter, I want to achieve certain things:
1. I want to see Mitchell and De Rossa elected.
2. I want to ensure that neither Libertas, the political wing of Youth Defence, nor Sinn Fein take the 3rd seat. Providing I can ensure that, I would like FF to lose a seat.
3. I wouldn’t mind Deirdre de Burca, who has impressed me, or Joe Higgins, whose integrity I admire, taking the last seat.
So, what do I do? Well, first, I assume that Mitchell and De Rossa are safe. I know saying that drives them nuts, and if everyone thought that, etc, but I’m making an educated stab that my vote is most effective being used in the battle for the 3rd seat, so I vote De Burca 1, Higgins 2, and all the way down until I reach Ryan, Mary Lou and Libertas. I then put my final marked preference in the Ryan box, and leave the rest blank. It means that my vote will always be travelling to help beat FF, but failing that, will help FF over Sinn Fein and Libertas.
I know this all sounds bleedin’ obvious to most political activists, but I’m disturbed by the people I keep meeting who think that just by not voting Sinn Fein is helping stop them. Remember, if you don’t transfer to non Sinn Fein candidates, your vote is not helping to stop them.