I have no idea what to do with my ballot

An election is mainly about one thing, the masses being given a voice for a short while and then their authority being delegated to mandated individuals. How people choose to use that voice varies but I have some categories:

The disinterested

Those who don’t register to vote so can’t participate and those who register but don’t utilise the option.

The principled abstainers

May or may not register to vote but consciously decide not to utilise the option.

The endorsers

People actively voting for a party or person they feel deserve to receive a mandate.

All things considered

Don’t actively endorse a party or person but select the least worst option.

The gamers

Weigh up the options and vote for someone not because they are the least worst option but because they are the least worst option with a chance of winning.

The players

Vote for a bad option to deliberately create a context that will bring challenges or difficulties.

Many people won’t cleanly fit my boxes and I am just musing but in a spirit of encouraging debate on why you vote I’ll raise my own dilemma based on the above. Of course most Slugger readers will be ‘endorsers’.

I’m clearly a former SF supporter and while reasonably distant and unable to ‘endorse’ them they are still the party in my constituency that are closest to my own thinking so they should fall into my ‘all things considered’. The local SDLP rep works harder on the ground and supports many things I value so they should also be in my ‘all things considered’ category. If the Green’s run here, and I hope they don’t as that’d demonstrate they are spreading their butter too thin again, they could be in with a ‘all things considered’ chance (if I lied I was only endorsing the eco-socalist wing).

However, neither SF or the SDLP are in with a chance of winning in my area so I could be considering UCUNF as a ‘gamer’ option. The least worst in with a shout but they’d support the Tories and cut local spending.

So does that make the DUP my gamer option?

But if I want to ensure the options presented demonstrate how the current options/system are unacceptable I could vote for the TUV as my player pick.

So I have reasons for voting for everyone but Alliance.

While I’ve previously suggested in conversation with some, that the biggest demonstration of republican confidence is not abstaining from Westminster but rejecting the entire process and not even running, I do get éirígí’s position of principled abstention.

So my vote is still up for grabs? I bet I just write something smart on the ballot and feel a bit smug with myself in the end.

  • Mark McGregor

    Before somebody else gets in…

    Stick up your arse.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Mr McGregor
    I dont find it surprising that you find Eirigis position “attractive”.
    But as your nationalist candidate (either SDLP or SF) cant get elected, you might wish to consider voting in a way which will do most damage to the “Unionist” project.
    If you assume that there are three Unionist parties and the victor comes from one of them, you might judge DUP to be a bigger friend to “Republicanism” than UUP. Or you might think Republicanism/Nationalism would benefit from unionism being pushed further into a corner and voting TUV.
    Clearly they arent the sharpest knives in the drawer and boosting them is not just the “rejectionist” option but its also a means of sewing dissent in unionist circles.
    Whether its “legitimate” to vote for the Party which will do the most damage is of course one for the political purists….and folks who analyse results.
    I personally couldnt bring myself to vote for my worst enemy in a first past the post election. But I would consider it in STV.

    But you have of course too many “boxes”. There is only one type of voter….someone who feels “involved”. There are two classes who dont feel involved. The Underclass. And the Overclass.

  • Alias

    Mark, I wouldn’t advise that option since the ballot paper is issued in a public place and while the booth is private, it’s not that private.

    Do what I’ve done for the last couple of elections: give it to the best independent candidate.

  • union mack

    ew, the possibility of a paper cut…

    you could vote for Alliance, and they would use it to claim (as they have done for 40 years) that more and more people are seeing their point of view. It’d cheer them up no end. They need something

  • Drumlins Rock

    you should stand yourself Mark 🙂

    I guess I am involved enough be an Endorser, but my instinct always goes with the Gamer, I think spoiling a vote is marginally better than abstaining, but picking one of the more obscure candidates is better again, for example the Green Party were polling up to 15% in West Fermanagh at the Euros! which was certainly meant to send a message to SF, if they got it or not, I would find it difficult not to encourage someone not to vote, even if the were likely to support the opposite view to myself, totally counter productive I know, but I still regard voting as vital part of a civilised society.

  • A spoiled vote is a waste of time and effort. If you believe you should vote.

  • union mack

    Maybe it is time for a ‘none of the above’ box. See how much of voter apathy is down to a lack of choice, and how much is down to them not being arsed enough to pop down the local polling station for a few minutes

  • Mark McGregor


    I tend to agree with you. My first and so far only spoiled vote at the last election delivered a fleeting sense of smug, self-righteousness but in the end meant nothing. Hence, a blog musing on how you vote when none of the options really represent you.

  • Mark McGregor

    What you do is: take a deep breath, hold your nose with one hand, and put the ‘cross’ on the nationalist most likely to with the other!

  • Damian O’Loan

    I would recommend using this site, you choose from policies and it tells you a party. Not local but very good nevertheless:


    In the case of a nationalist voting for a unionist or vice versa, it seems a little reductionist to decide purely on constitutional politics. Don’t be surprised if you get reduced-ability reps. Maybe you could consider trying to vote for the best in the area which matters most to you over the electoral period – which if it were eco-socialism would mean Green surely. I see a good reason in voluntary coalition to also use elections to award and sanction good performance.

    Your profile categories are not really very helpful in the end, except to some game theory challenge you may have in your back pocket. It’s a question worth thinking through all the same.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Where has the Natural Law Party gone?
    they amounted to “none of the above” really, sadly the monster raving looneys never took of here (neither did the natural law despite thier claims :)) they had too much competition.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Damian, if mark was in South down he would prob vote DUP in that case, as Wells has very Green credentials.

  • Comrade Stalin

    and they would use it to claim (as they have done for 40 years) that more and more people are seeing their point of view.

    The things I learn on Slugger. Today I’ve learned that, apparently, whenever you vote for a political party, it means that they will regard you as a supporter.

  • Keithbelfast

    Vote for RoN.

  • union mack


    If you re-read my post, I was making the point that Alliance have claimed that their message was becoming ever more popular, despite it’s consistent decline over the decades.

  • Cynic2


    If you want a progressive honest open and inclusive party, then in the cess pit of NI its a straight choice between clean but weak and ineffective Alliance (think Lib Dems with even fewer policies) or the Conservatives

  • aquifer

    You should stand Mark, the post office will send out your manifesto for free. You would have to write it down, though you could take some ideas and phrases from old ones other people have done.

  • Alias

    True, the closest Alliance wil ever come to a sex scandal is if David Ford’s credit card details are stolen from a discount Viagra website.

  • LabourNIman

    I’m hoping the ‘Vote for yourself party’ stand, because, well, the irony.

  • Drumlins Rock

    irony in NI politics?

  • Danny Boy

    I don’t think it’s at all obvious that most of Slugger’s readership would be ‘endorsers’ – most of its writers, possibly.

    Think a disgruntled nationalist has it hard? Try choosing who to vote for on feminist grounds!

  • Mark McGregor

    Alias, thank you. I laughed so hard at this a bit of wee came out:

    True, the closest Alliance wil ever come to a sex scandal is if David Ford’s credit card details are stolen from a discount Viagra website.

  • lamhdearg

    As you like eirigi vote for tuv, I asked/suggested this as an option for Shinners No More in a previeos post, Me i am a gamer come player, But i wont be saying who will get my vote.

  • orly

    I think i’d generally fall into the Endorser and Gamer categories.

    Who I endorse does change from election to election though. Being in North Down i’d voted in the past for Bob McCartney, the DUP, the UUP and even the Greens depending on the election.

    This election is tough. We have the now independent old style UUP sitting MP. The new UCU guy who used to be Alliance (what is the deal there), the DUP and Bob have disappeared and the TUV have appeared instead. The Greens also showing up but not worth the vote in a General Election.

    Decisions decisions

  • joeCanuck

    Spoiling your vote is not a waste of time. If you took the trouble to register and then find that you don’t like any of the candidates, spoiling ensures that no one else can steal your vote.

  • Spoiling your vote is a waste of time if you actually want to be a part of the democratic process. It is different in a first past the post system, but it is still counted. If your vote is counted on the nationalist side it boosts the nationalist numbers and that takes us closer to a united Ireland.

  • bigchiefally

    pippakin – A vote for SF or the SDLP, in, say, East Belfast brings us closer to a United Ireland? A DUP/UUP vote in West Belfast keeps us in the UK?

    Does this mean every NI election is effectively a referendum on the border and nothing else?

    Is that really it? Depressing.

  • daisy

    Who should a liberal feminist with no particular interest in nationalism/unionism living in North Antrim vote for? Anyone?

  • Drumlins Rock

    daisy, there is a female alliance candidate standing in NA, whats wrong with her? ( apart from the obivious that she hasnt a chance, but who knows you could help her save her deposit? )

  • midulsterunionist

    I’m from Mid Ulster and i’m finding it hard to take my place in the democratic process because even if every unionist votes for just one unionist candidate we still will be outpolled by republicans/ nationalists, but hey it’s nice to vote but who is there worth voting for?
    Sinn fein won’t attend…
    The DUP are more interested in themselves than the electorate…
    The UUP candidate is only there because of who she’s related to…
    and well the SDLP candidate is a council member who no one up here has heard of… plus he is a nationalist so thats out for me…
    The TUV on the other hand who I would support in general are running a candidate who was once a DUP man then an ulster independent, then a UK unionist,now a TUV man… so it’s difficult to know what he believes in…

    But hey even if i do vote unionist my vote won’t matter anyway! don’t you just love democracy!

  • bigchiefally

    ‘Does this mean every NI election is effectively a referendum on the border and nothing else?’

    I hope not! and I know that sounds like a contradiction. Thing is there are all the usual issues we all have to think about and each person must vote according to their conscience. Anything else would be dishonest and worse, dishonest to themselves. The PR system here means that the Assembly elections, where most of the decisions are made now, can be very straightforward, we can vote for ‘A’ and ‘B’. A GE is different. In some ways it is the best way to gauge the real sides people are on. Even if your candidate loses, your vote is counted and I believe we are heartened when we see our cause advancing through the numbers.


    Since the subject is the GE I would say vote for whichever nationalist candidate has the best chance, but vote nationalist anyway to add to the overall numbers.

  • bigchiefally

    Sorry I forgot, over times it also increases the ‘normality’ of the nationalist vote, thus making it a less threating alternative to any who may feel threatened.

  • bigchiefally

    pippakin – my issue is your comment “we are heartened when we see our cause advancing through the numbers”. It isnt an unusual view but this one-issue-ness, even from someone who seems quite moderate in many of their posts, is why we dont have even vaguely normal politics here.

    For many people it all does come down to a headcount, which is why I was very surprised at the “annoyance”, fake or real, displayed by SDLP and SF at the Unity candidate in FST. How many prods every vote for SF? Or catholics for DUP? It is all a sectarian headcount!

    I dont think unionists are ever going to be non-threatened by a large SF vote in NI. Large SDLP or indeed FF/FG votes here might cause some disquiet in unionist minds (though I honestly doubt many would be that worried) but nothing like seeing 60+% of the nationalist population voting SF.

  • daisy

    Drumlin, haven’t seen anything about her so far – not even a poster. I assumed it was the usual suspects standing.

  • bigchiefally

    I think the only reason ‘normality’ will work now is that we do, almost, have normality. This gives everyone the opportunity to weigh up their options and make real decisions.

    You say unionists will always be threatened by the nationalist/republican vote. I am not sure I agree with ‘always’. The peace gives unionists in particular the opportunity to look across the water and see how different it is from their own culture and how little toleration there would be for their culture. In that case Ireland will look much more attractive and would I believe be far more tolerant of unionist culture.

    It needs peace and it needs people knowing there are all these people who are nationalist and who are not threatening at all. It is for that reason we need the numbers.

  • bigchiefally

    pippakin – I think Unionists will always be threatened by a large SF vote because of what they represent to Unionists, but I think most dont fear an SDLP vote.

    You may be that rare thing, a nationalist who is aware that for a United Ireland to happen, Unionists have to be persuaded of its benefits to them. I may disagree with you about the comparable benefits but SF and the SDLP never speak to unionists about this, instead focusing on issues that to be honest make Unionists hate the idea.

  • midulsterunionist

    I disagree that an increased nationalist vote makes unionists feel less threatened, i’m 20 and live in a majority nationalist constituency (mid ulster) and as i said above we have no chance of ousting the sinn fein MP (Marty McGuinness) now rather than making myself and the other unionists feel less threatened it actually makes the feeling far stronger… the idea that the majority of your neighbours in local towns and villages support a party and a man that played a part in the murder of the members of your community and which gives out statements condeming dissidents who are at work in your area but yet won’t actually do anything about them doesn’t really do much to inspire confidence in mid ulster’s working class unionists…

  • bigchiefally

    Midulsterunionist – would you feel the same if it was a large sdlp vote rather than one for mcGuiness?

  • bigchiefally and midulsterunionist

    I do indeed, firmly believe in persuasion and I also believe that the argument on a united Ireland is on our side. Given the peace I believe everyone will see the advantages. I would say to anyone who sees the S/F vote as a threat to look across the border. S/F are no big deal there and not likely to become one.

    The past is full of violence and no one party is completely immune from the past actions of some of its members. We have reason to hope that those who committed most of the crimes have matured and are now completely committed to peaceful means.

  • midulsterunionist

    No i don’t think i would feel the same, I would of course still have problems with a SDLP majority especially when they attempt their “greener than sinn fein” approach especially the john dallat approach but i guess in comparison to sinn fein it would be a lesser evil so to speak and at least there would be someone over in westminster but the problem is anyone going over to parliament must represent all sides of the political constitutency especially the minority or else we risk alienating a large number of people so for example in mid ulster working class unionists are starting to feel left out of the whole process and the siege mentality is starting to come to the fore… loyalists are telling people not to talk to the police and there is a growing distrust and antipathy towards the political class… and all because there is a lack of representation at government for them

  • midulsterunionist

    But you see that is my whole point! It is better in the Assembly, but the GE is a straight race and some always feel left out. In the UK it is the reason for the rise in the far right parties. No one likes being ignored for years, as for being consistently lied to well!

    The difference in the north is that it will eventually make a difference. The most important thing is peace, given peace and time, you may well find the SDLP and Alliance vote growing and you and others may well feel at home there. I hope so. One thing I will say for the south is politics is much more personal than in the UK generally, and PR in the GE means everyone has a voice. Do you realise the power the block unionist vote would have in the south? Far more than in the north.

  • bigchiefally

    pippakin – I am not sure it is the reason for the rise in far right parties in the UK. Compared to a lot of other european countries with non first past the post elections the UK has had a vastly smaller far right support.

    Just on the UI issue – would you be happy for a UI to have say, a new anthem, a new flag, no requirement for public workers to have irish language, even maybe to rejoin the Commonwealth (whilst retaining an Irish head of state)?

  • midulsterunionist

    i understand the idea that unionists would be better listened to in a united ireland but the problem is it just seems to be nonsense… i don’t understand why some republicans/nationalists expect unionists to believe that they will listen to us in a UI when they don’t bother listening now, if republicans/nationalists want unionists to believe in the benefits of a UI then we need to see more than just words we need to see actions… i mean how can i believe that my culture will be accepted in a UI whilst sinn fein and some SDLP actively campaign against parades? I think a UI would need a new flag but i can’t see the other 26 counties accepting this…

  • Neil

    No i don’t think i would feel the same, I would of course still have problems with a SDLP majority especially when they attempt their “greener than sinn fein” approach

    I understand that that is a problem that we face here in NI. The fact that (if we dispose of words green and orange, and replace them with Nationalist and Unionist) someone feels that they still have a problem with the SDLP, especially when they try to be more Nationalist than SF. Similair to saying I would still have a problem with the DUP, especially when they’re too Unionist.

    As you say yourself anyone going over to parliament must represent all sides of the political constitutency especially the minority or else we risk alienating a large number of people and in reality the perception is probably different from the reality in that most MPs will help their constituents regardless of their religion.

    I agree that generally there is a perception that if you are a Unionist you can only be represented by a Unionist and the same perception is there on the other side of the fence.

    I suppose this is something that we need to work on in a society wide basis at some point, as I said on another thread it’s akin to a labour voter saying he has no representation because the Tories won, or in the USA a Democrat saying he had no congressman because the Republican candidate won. Totally ridiculous in either situation.

    so for example in mid ulster working class unionists are starting to feel left out of the whole process and the siege mentality is starting to come to the fore… loyalists are telling people not to talk to the police and there is a growing distrust and antipathy towards the political class… and all because there is a lack of representation at government for them

    It’s one constituency where this happens, but to be fair, there are constituencies where the same situation is played out and the Unionist community wins. It’s democracy at work, Unionists will win the majority of seats in NI, there are marginally more Unionists here than Nationalists, and there will be seats where Nationalists will be solely represented by Unionists.

    The thing is in their situation as in your own, they will have to come to terms with the fact that if they want help from their MP, they don’t get to insist on that MP being from their community.

    Again I should stress that I understand that in NI things are a bit different, and I know many Nationalists who wouldn’t countenance seeking help from their local MP as that MP is Unionist, and the reverse happens for Unionists, but in order for progress to be made, and it’s almost inevitable that this will have to happen, but Unionist and Nationalist have to be seen more on terms of Labour and Conservative than Serb and Bosnian.

  • midulsterunionist

    I would have no problem going to the SDLP for help but the problem comes with sinn fein…as they don’t bother attending parliament so what help can they be as MP’s? The SDLP on the other hand was in my eyes a middle class everyman’s party except they had a nationalist approach but in recent times the only press statements in this area from the SDLP come from Mr. Dallat and to say that they damage community relations is an understatement and to be honest sinn fein seems to be a less hardline party in this area believe it or not.

  • bigchiefally

    I spent a lot of years in England and I can remember when a vote for the BNP would have been almost treason! To see them with so many councillors now is, to say the least, strange.

    Re a united Ireland, do you know I see nothing objectionable in any of the conditions, especially the language, not because I dislike the Irish language, not at all. I am actually trying to learn! but I do agree it has been used by some as a stick to beat unionists with.

    In a united Ireland we would not be able to discriminate in such a way, I am not sure we will be able to discriminate on that ground for much longer anyway. Other nationalities have settled here and it is a bit much to ask someone to learn two languages before they can apply to be a junior clerk.

    Chara means friend in Irish, it is a beautiful language and worth learning without the political baggage some people attach to it. You have to remember that the people using the language in that way do not actually speak it very well, they do it more harm than good, verbally and politically.

  • bigchiefally

    pippakin – have you ever heard a nationalist politician say that in a UI these sorts of things can be changed? I havent. I suppose I havent heard too many unionists politicians selling the union with its NHS and lower personal taxation to nationalists a huge amount either but dumb ideas dont make a smart one.

    On Irish I have no issue at all with anyone learning it, speaking it, whatever in their private and social life. I dont have an issue with government funding for it in cultural and arts projects and festivals as long as there is an effort to include non speakers. I might think there are more useful second languages to go with but I genuinely say good luck in your efforts to learn it, anyone who puts the effort into learning a language deserves considerable respect. My only real issue with it is those who try and push Irish into public use as a national language. By public use I mean translating state documents into it, government offices having speakers, the assembly having full time translators etc. Doing this annoys me, like it does many unionists (which in some eyes may well be the point) as we all know that unlike the republic there arent any non English speaking Irish speakers here. No one will be getting access to services that previously werent. As far as I can see the main reason to push its use in this area is to make NI feel a more gaelic irish entity.

    Now, there is nothing wrong with being gaelic irish, but in NI we arent all of that ilk so spending a lot of money on policies that purely are geared towards pushing us down that road seems daft. When many unionists think of nationalist policies this is something they think of, which puts them off a UI even more. I wonder how many nationalist politicians ever stop and think “Hmmm, we fight and fight for this policy, that isnt really going to help any of our people other than maybe providing a brief warm, tricoloured glow when they, say, go into the local council offices and prior to conducting their business in their native language of english they see they could also talk in irish. In doing this we antagonise and further alienate unionists against our ultimate goal of a united irish state. Maybe this isnt exactly what we should be doing?”. That seems to be the line you were heading down, and if so, I definitely agree.

    The fact the BNP is only lately getting more power, and still comparably little, but both the far right and first past the post have been here a long time make me think first past the post isnt a major reason for their rise. In a global scheme of things the UKs consitituencies are pretty small. In NI with MEPs, MPs and MLAs do you not think we are massively over governed?


    Sell it the Peter for a fiver

  • JR

    Big Chief,
    With the exception of rejoining the commonwealth I think the majority of nationalists would be happy with all those conditions you mentioned. Especially the Irish Language in the civil service.

    In terms of the Irish language in government though I personally think that people living on the Island of Ireland should have the right to conduct their affairs through Irish. The money amounts are not very large and while there are no monolingual Irish speakers here (above the age of 2) there are quite a few for whom Irish is their first language.

    When you look at the conditions you wrote above do you not think you are asking much more of nationalists in the event of a UI than you are prepared to give within NI?

    On your vote, Eliminate those you like least and then vote for who is left. That is what I do.

  • JR

    Oh and pippakin, sorry for being pedantic but cara means friend not Chara. The aspiration only comes in when certain words precede it for example Mo chara or a chara.

  • JR

    A Cara means her friend, a Chara means his friend and a gCara means their friend.

  • bigchiefally

    To be honest I dont recall hearing either the unionists or S/F talking about actual policy. I am not convinced they have any, whenever they are on tv it is always about a united Ireland UK issue. Obviously they have policies but I doubt any of their core supporters care about them.


    I did say I was trying to learn, I did not say I was much good at it. I hope to improve!

  • bigchiefally

    JR – when you ask “do you not think you are asking much more of nationalists in the event of a UI than you are prepared to give within NI” if by “you” you mean the collective ruling unionists in NI since partition, then yes you are right. If though be “you” you mean me, then I am not sure how you would know. I would be quite happy to have an anthem that wasnt GSTQ for NI sporting teams, and I have no idea why the NI flag took the English cross of St George from the Union flag rather than the Irish cross of St Patrick. Swap the crosses and I think you have a pretty good representation of NI, St Patrick Cross – Irish, Crown – British, Red Hand – Ulster. Though I wouldnt have a problem coming up with something else.

    The bigger point though is that Nationalists are the ones who need to convince Unionists of the usefulness of a UI and the welcome they would receive in it if they want a change in the status quo. Unionists should have been attempting to convince nationalists that the Union is a good thing for years. They havent, which has been stupid and short sighted, but at least they have the excuse that they are constitutionally where they want to be. The onus isnt on them. Morally this might be unfair, but many things in life are I suppose.

    On Irish, I think we will just have to agree to differ on this one!