Journal of Applied Philosophy 23 (4):433–444 (2006)
Abstractabstract A common bit of public political wisdom advises that in certain three‐way elections, one should cast a strategic vote for one of the top two candidates rather than a conscience‐driven vote for a third candidate, since doing otherwise amounts to ‘throwing one's vote away’. In this paper, I examine the possible justifications for this pragmatic advice to vote strategically. I argue that the most direct argument behind such advice fails to motivate strategic voting in large‐scale elections, since there is no significant chance that one's own vote will alter the outcome of the election, even in plausible close‐call cases. In short, the lack of probable pragmatic effect undermines the pragmatic motivation for altering one's baseline voting behavior. However, an indirect argument succeeds in motivating strategic voting in some scenarios. Such an indirect argument relies on the possibility of one acquiring an obligation to engage in public strategic campaigning for one of the top two candidates. In many cases in which one strategically campaigns, one will, indirectly, acquire an obligation to vote strategically in accord with one's prior public campaign activities. Thus, the common bit of political wisdom about strategic voting can be justified, though only indirectly
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