This is a question I’ve been asked quite a few times since the mail in ballots arrive a few days ago. My answer: I am only voting for the candidates I want most to win. You are asked to vote for “up to three”. The winners will be the candidates that receive the highest vote totals. Bullet voting is deciding to vote for only one candidate, even though you have the opportunity to vote for more. By not casting the maximum number of votes, a voter helps his or her preferred candidate by not supplying votes to potential rivals.
Why would anyone do this? It really comes down to how you think the race is going. If you have three favorites and believe they are going to easily win the seats, then you should simply vote for them without reservation – forget about bullet voting, stop reading and eagerly await the next blog post. :)
When one candidate seems highly likely to win (like a popular incumbent), that leaves two seats for the remaining candidates. Whether you vote for this candidate is up to you. If you believe that your favorite candidate, your first choice, is not going to win the most votes, but stands a good chance of grabbing second or third place, then yes, you should bullet vote for her. Don’t risk elevating a potential rival.
Why? Well, let’s say we have four candidates running for contested two seats: Jim, Billy, Mary and Kerry. You can vote for two of the candidates to fill two seats.
Let’s say you are wild about Mary and cast a vote for her. You also kind of like Billy, so you vote for him as well. Your neighbor doesn’t think much of Mary, so he votes for Jim and Billy. The question is, did you weaken your support for Mary by voting for Billy as well? Well, let’s see: Between the two of you, the election stands at one vote for Mary, one vote for Jim, and two votes for Billy, who was no one’s first choice. Great for Billy; not so good for your favorite, Mary or for Jim.
Does anyone do this? Apparently.
Let’s look at the 2010 CCSD election, where we got to vote for up to two candidates. There were 3,412 ballots, so if everyone voted for two, there would be 6,824 possible votes for candidates. Yet only 5,895 votes were, in fact, cast for a candidate. Clearly a lot of people bullet voted, or perhaps they were unaware they could choose two candidates, or didn’t vote at all for CCSD. Remember, the two candidates for the second seat were separated by less than 50 votes, and yet there were over 929 possible votes that weren’t cast. These voters took the time to go to the polls and vote, and yet opted not to vote for all the candidates to which they were entitled. Looking at the 2008 CCSD election count, only 78 votes separated third and fourth place. There were 11,766 total possible votes, but only 9,363 votes were cast. That means 2,403 possible votes weren’t cast.
To beat the point over the head, if candidates A B C D E are running for three seats, and my ideal result is A B C, but I prefer A so strongly that I’d prefer A D E to any result without A, then bullet- voting (“plumping”) for A makes strategic sense, even though it means withholding my votes from B and C, whom I would also like to see elected (along with A) if possible.
Of course, you should vote however you feel is right for you. If you are confident your favorite candidates will easily get more votes than the others, vote for three candidates. No matter how many you vote for, there will be three people seated in December. Just remember: if you cast a second or third vote for someone for whom you are lukewarm, you may be unwittingly giving someone else enough votes to place third and the seat on the board, and your favorite candidate will place fourth.
I hope that isn’t too long-winded of an answer. I’ve always preferred not to get in the way of how other people express their democratic muscle. This year is different, of course, since I am a candidate and the one asking for your vote. That’s about the shortest answer I can muster. I hope it was helpful, or at least clearly explained.