How to vote?
I’m sitting in a comfy armchair at Mesh, writing this post surrounded by excited election chatter and some of Oslo’s most engaged digital and interaction talents. There’s also a free bar downstairs. A free bar – this is Norway, damn it, and a free bar is a big deal. So to sit here and write took a little inspiration to say the least.
This blog isn’t about politics, so it’s a digression to say the least. But my inspiration came from using a digital tool that got me thinking a little differently about voting.
I’m English, and I live in Oslo. Have done for nearly five years. Though I am unable to vote, I have still been following a little of the political debate that has been bubbling up these past few weeks here. If I could vote, I would. But for now I have to spectate.
So rather than get caught up in the campaigning frenzy all over Oslo, I have had a little more mental space to think about how we all vote, rather than thinking about who to vote for. I’m really glad that we are able to vote in Norway – the fact that many people have fought to afford Norwegians the right to vote is not something to take lightly. But I’m not going to bang on about that here and now. You have your own conscience. This election has got me thinking more about how we vote.
So how did you do it? Who did you vote for? Why did you choose that particular party? It seems everyone has different reasons for choosing the party they do, which be anything from well-informed, logical and strategical reasoning, to ‘I like the colour red’. And it’s your right to cast that vote, no matter how idiotic your reason for voting the way you do.
And as I sit here watching the results come in, so far it’s as predictable as I thought it would be. The two largest parties are getting the majority of the vote, and it’ll be a bit of a race to the finish since some people want some change in the Norwegian parliament. Party loyalty (“I always vote Conservative”) and strategic voting (“I don’t want the other guys to win”) are probably accounting for a lot of those votes.
But what if it wasn’t like that?
What if we all had to cast our votes in a different way? What if we all had to think more about what we are voting on? Amidst the discussions my wife and I have had about how to vote, we both used the ‘valgometer' on Aftenposten, a tool for helping you to decide how to cast your vote. And I think it's a genius idea.
It asks you 30 questions about various policies, getting you to weight each thing in turn based on how important you think the issues are. At the end of it, you’re shown very clearly which party’s policies are most in alignment with the way you think. It’s hardly rocket science, but shouldn’t this kind of thinking be part of how we cast our votes?
I think it should be mandatory to take this kind of quiz before voting, though you could vote any way you please afterwards. At least then we’d be focussing on the issues that are important to us, instead of blind faith in particular parties, cynical strategic tactics, or being completely ill-informed. Wouldn’t that make more sense?
So had I been able to vote tonight I then I would have voted for Miljøpartiet det Grønne. Not for any other reason than because I took five minutes to consider which issues are important to me.
Shouldn’t that be how to vote?