POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Vote pairing

Tactical Vote Swapping in Elections

Vote swapping is a form of vote pairing between two voters in an election. Under this form of vote pairing, two voters in different constituencies agree to vote for each other’s preferred candidate or party.

Under the UK’s first past the post electoral system, this form of tactical voting has traditionally occurred between supporters of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties in a mutual effort to ensure their preferred party does not lose seats to the Conservatives. To illustrate, there may be a Labour voter in a constituency in which Labour has no real chance of winning, whilst the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are expected to run a close race. Similarly, there may be a Liberal Democrat voter in a constituency in which the Liberal Democrats have little chance of winning, whilst the Conservatives and the Labour parties will be contesting a close election. In this situation, if they voted for their preferred parties in their own constituencies their votes would essentially be wasted. However, if each agrees to vote for the other’s preferred party, then they will increase the chance of their preferred party winning a parliamentary seat in the other’s electorate.

Parliamentary Vote Pairing

Parliamentary vote pairing is a practice in the UK and Australia whereby two members of parliament from opposing parties agree to abstain from votes in Parliament if the other is unable to attend the vote, thus preserving the balance of power in parliament. Members may have good reasons for not being able to attend a vote, such a falling ill, so it is therefore considered fair that the opposing party does not gain an advantage in votes as a result.

See also: Constituency

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