You may have seen I recently reblogged a post from a few years ago about the Single Transferrable Vote and how it works. There's been a lot of debate about one particular element of STV on my timeline of late, so much so that I felt it needed another blog.
In particular there has been lots of discussion about the idea that you should vote 'ALL THE WAY DOWN' the ballot. This is so important. For example In East Belfast last time round the final DUP candidate got elected without reaching the quota. This means that there were people's votes wasted. People who stopped transferring down the list, who could have kept that last seat going to the DUP. These people voted as if they felt that the Green Party and the DUP were equally bad and I'm dubious that if you were to push there's many people who actually believe that.
So the thing is GO ALL THE WAY DOWN. Keep going till it hurts. Till you can't, just can't give them a transfer. Till you hate the ones left EXACTLY the same amount, (and if you have 4 or 5 parties in that bracket, try harder).
Now some people have been saying that you should definitely go right to the bottom. This it seems to me is based on the version of STV that runs in some places in the South and is referenced in this article. In this version you HAVE to get the quota to get elected. In this case voting to the bottom does make some theoretical sense but in the NI version you can leave off the last party and it won't make a difference (I'm happy to be corrected on this but I've yet to be convinced by any argument to the contrary).
Much of the online chat has been about this. I think it's confusing. You definitely should push yourself, and in an election that should be about the performance of the DUP in particular I'm going to hold my nose and transfer to TUV, UKIP and even the Torries but the idea that you should put a number in EVERY box isn't right. As an electorate though we need to go further because we're wasting our votes.
A final word I think has to go to Mike Nesbitt for making the electorate think a little harder about their transfers. Aside from the fact that this is not a border poll, no one is going to interpret a 2nd 3rd or 4th preference vote as a vote for a United Ireland. Out politics HAS to become more complicated than Green and Orange or we'll be stuck in this cycle forever. The idea that a unionist leader may want to work for mutual benefit with the SDLP isn't so mad is it? Especially when those throwing stones are only too glad to invite SF into their glass house to form a government. But the point is this, you won't agree with everything your first preference stands for so you should be able to give your 3rd, 4th etc to people who you agree with less. This is not a binary process with 'Red Lines' as Nolan likes to talk about, this is a complex series of 'who has made me less sick/angry?' questions.
So on 2nd March go down. Hold your nose and go right down. Go down till you can taste the bile at the back of your throat. Because remember they may all be detestable, but some of them are way more detestable than others