Tuesday, October 14, 2008

E-day in e-ville

i'm writing this blog post after casting my vote but before the ontario results ironize any westerner's ballot -- wait, i drifted dangerously close to cynicism there, so let me move along, because i want to rave about vote-swapping.

for the 3 of you who didn't do it this time around, here's how it works: you email a guy named matt saying who you like to vote for (NDP in my case), who you're willing to vote for (liberal -- i dunno, elizabeth may was great in the debate, but she's personally pro-life and although she says it doesn't make a difference to the greens' policies, i'm not 100% convinced, and besides, the greens in canada still have some wacky neo-con fiscal policies behind all that concern for the planet). anyway, vote-swapping: matt puts all this info into a huge database and then, a week before the election, sends you your match. if i vote liberal here in edmonton centre -- a swing district! -- my partner casts "my" ND vote somewhere else (calgary, in this case, in a conservative stronghold where layton's party comes in strongly second). at the end of the day, the NDs get the same total number of votes, which translates into money, but the anti-conservative/anti-Conservative vote is deployed in the places where it will make the most difference. it's just-in-time coalition-building, on-the-fly solidarity; it's everything web 2.0 should enable us to do.

that's the theory. in practice vote-swapping is even better. it personalizes the concept of the "canadian electorate" in ways i hadn't anticipated. i emailed my vote swap partner -- christopher from calgary -- and said, "i'm in if you're in." he wrote back to say, "yeah, sure, and good luck unseating the cons." as email exchanges go, this was unremarkable. except: except i now know there's someone out there, a total stranger, who's thinking hard about this election and who shares some of my convictions (that, say, arts matter). more to the point, and astonishingly, given that we're strangers, we trust each other.

which is really what elections are all about, and why they are normally so fraught and difficult and full of betrayal. sitting around on election night and watching the numbers roll in -- remember, i live in alberta -- i find myself routinely bewildered, wandering the metaphorical wilderness in the aftermath of civilization's breakdown. i get glummer and glummer as the night wears on, wondering how on earth my neighbours, my family members, my coworkers (surely not my friends?) can bring themselves to vote for a political party that denies human rights to entire categories of people, that believes torture is acceptable, that loves money more than children, et cetera. i usually drink a lot, on election nights.

but this year? this year it's all going to be different. 'cause this year, i know that while i'm pouring another stiff one here in the swing riding of edmonton centre, my buddy christopher-from-calgary is pulling for the same results. we might win, we might lose, one of us will almost certainly have a conservative MP -- but in the big picture? look out. the left is organized, and we have email.

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