How do I decide who to vote for?

There are a lot of undecided voters going into this election, and I’m one of them. I desperately want to use my vote in both the council and general elections, but no particular candidate or party excites me. I’ve had a few people say they’re in a similar situation, so I thought I’d share my processes on how to separate the wheat from the chaff:

1. Find out who’s standing in your constituency

You can find your local candidates for MP by typing your postcode in to this site: https://yournextmp.com/

For council elections, you’ll need to identify the name of your ward. You can then Google the ward name plus ‘council candidates 2015’, or, if you’re interested in a particular party, go through their website to see who’s standing in your area.

2. Check previous voting records

If your current MP is standing for re-election, you can check their previous voting record here: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mps/ See if you agree or disagree with how they have voted in the past.

3. Use social media

Find your local candidates on Facebook and Twitter, check out their posts, and, if you want to, send them a question to answer.

4. Search for local hustings and door-to-door campaigns

Check search engines, the local newspaper and social media to see what’s happening. If there’s a hustings with a topic you particularly care about, try to attend or at least read a write-up of the event. If you want to meet a candidate in person but can’t attend hustings, see where they’re campaigning and just talk to them in the street.

5. Check out the parties at a national level

Take a look at their websites, watch / read a summary of the televised debates, read the key points in their manifestos. If there’s a topic you feel particularly strongly about, cross-check to see which party has the best policy on it.

6. Should I use tactical voting?

I’m not personally a fan of tactical voting. Under the First Past the Post system, we only have one vote to express how we feel about our local parliamentary candidate, their party, and the potential Prime Minister. This system is already undemocratic enough without voting for someone you don’t really believe in. If there’s a party or candidate you want to back; back them. They might not have a realistic chance of winning, but this doesn’t mean the vote is ‘wasted’: it will contribute to their national percentage share and may help the candidate reach the 5% threshold needed to get their deposit back.

Having said all that, if there’s definitely a candidate or party you want to block and polls suggest it’s a two-horse race, it’s a perfectly valid option to vote for their strongest opponent.

7. I’ve done all that and nobody represents my views. Now what?

You can intentionally spoil your ballot by going into the booth and write ‘None of these candidates represent my views.’ The number of spoiled ballots is counted by the returning officer, and if the number grew ludicrously high, it would seriously shake up the system.

Or you can decide not to vote, and you’ll be able to answer any critic who challenges you for taking that decision. If you’ve gone through all of the above, you’ll no doubt be much better informed than they are! And perhaps think about standing for a local council seat yourself one day. Be the candidate you’d want to vote for.

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