To be clear, I am not asking for which party you vote: I am asking about your process in deciding to vote.

Answer how you like, but these are questions to consider:

  1. Do you even vote at all? Why or why not?
  2. If so, do you vote along party lines or do you specifically vote for the candidate in question?
  3. Are you more inclined to vote for the candidate you like even if it is an independent who will almost certainly not win, or vote strategically to avoid the candidate you are afraid will win?
  4. What do you use to inform your opinion on candidates or parties, and how much consideration do you give to the decision? Compare the effort to, let's say, the decision to buy a new car.
  5. Would you spoil the ballot if no candidates met your standards (if it is an option)?
  6. What are some of your key voting issues?
  7. Are there critical character flaws in candidates which you find unelectable?

Provided this thread doesn't just fizzle and die, consider adding your voting region if you feel comfortable revealing that info.

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Answering my own questions, voting in Vancouver, BC, Canada:

  1. Yes, I vote. I disagree with the current voting system, but I do not think it is so broken that my vote is worth nothing. While I am not American, I check the Gallup polls, and I not something a little unsettling. By their numbers, Romney and Obama are roughly even with registered voters. If memory serves, Obama has averaged higher over the long run. What is bothersome is that Romney seems to have been consistently higher amongst 'likely voters'. While I don't read too deeply into this figure, it is disconcerting to see the discrepancy. Yes, the election system may be a bit f'd, but here you have a simple measure to at least voice an opinion on popular vote, but failing to do so skews the results. So I vote, at the very least, to demonstrate where my support does or does not lie. There is a difference between a PM who holds the support of the majority and one who does not.
  2. It is difficult not to vote along party lines to some degree. I vote for a Member of Parliament in federal elections, not for a Prime Minister. Problematically, some of the MP candidates in my riding are unknowns. I vet the candidates in my riding to make sure that they are not obvious frauds, but ultimately, the party platform calls louder.
  3. I will vote for the candidate I like by preference. I have voted Green knowing that the candidate won't win the seat, but I want there to be voter support for the party to make it viable as a potential minority. I don't agree with strategic voting; however, our political system has a divided left and a unified right at the moment. Most Canadians are not Conservatives, yet the Conservatives took the election as a majority government. I prefer vote reform over strategic voting, but no politicians will tackle such reform, so I understand the appeal of strategic voting.
  4. I try to keep abreast of issues as they break and take note of performance and policy. I do watch the debates, and read proposed platforms before the election, but prior voting record and policy positions speak louder for the most part. While I do not even come close to spending every waking moment on politics, I do feel obligated to invest at least a bit of time on it every week (vacations excluded). Even then I still feel less informed than I'd like to be, but I am at least informed enough to spot bullshit rhetoric come election time.
  5. I would spoil the ballot if that information was calculated. Heck, voting Green is almost the same thing. It's my way of saying that I didn't cast my ballot for the selected candidate. I do wish that elections Canada would provide a 'none of the above' option, and keep track so that dissenters have a voice too.
  6. I am pretty varied. I place a higher emphasis on environmental issues than most. In terms of economics, I still lean left, but I largely don't want to see an entire platform based on tax cuts (especially corporate tax cuts), neither do I want to see plans for increased social spending with no accountability for funding. Justice and human rights issues are very important to me, but I will more likely vote against bad policy than for new good policies. Health care and education spending are also high up.
  7. I will not vote for any candidate who cites religion or superstition as a reason for acting one way or another. I will strongly avoid candidates who tout 'morality' or 'family values' as well. It's just not trustworthy. I need reasons to support a course of action so I can make an informed decision myself. 

I think it would be helpful if those answering the questions here would state where they live. It would be interesting to see how voting strategies are affected by location. I live in the USA in the state of Oregon and city of Eugene.

1. I vote because even if it's only a fraction of a fraction of a percent my vote is worth something. At the very least it shows that I desire to have a say in how I and my society are governed.

2. I do a little bit of both. On the national scale I tend to vote more along party lines because even if my representative or senator isn't ideal at least I know what to expect from the party as a whole. I have thus far never voted anything other than democrat for president, senate, or representative. On the local scale I tend to base my decision on the candidate in question and the current local issues. I tend to vote Green Party, Democrat, or Independent in local elections.

3. I tend to vote strategically for the presidency. The presidential elections I have been able to vote in have been so close that I feel that my vote is best used in favor of the lesser of two evils. In all other elections I am willing to vote 3rd party if it's possible in the first place and if their positions on the issues are more like mine than the democrat. (In Oregon we tend to have pretty decent democrats as candidates.)

4. I've never bought a new car... but I feel I put a decent amount of effort into understanding candidates positions on the issues especially the issues that are important to me. To understand the candidates positions I tend to look at the candidates websites, listen to or read recaps of speeches/debates, read the local newspapers, watch PBS, and read random news articles online. I rarely watch or get any information from the big networks like CNN, MSNBC, FOX, CBS, ABC ect...

5. I'll spoil the ballot when I don't really care about the results of that particular election. I've only done this a few times in local elections where the difference between the two condidates was essentially negligible and the effort to find where they differed wasn't worth it.

6. My key voting issues are: health care, education, reproductive/women's rights, and the environment. I do take other issues into account too; I am certainly not a single issue voter.

7. I would be highly unlikely to vote for: A candidate who is too focused on their own religious views to be able to represent everyone they were elected to represent. A candidate who makes heinous statements (and therefore believes heinous things) about about women, the gay community, minorities, educators, the poor, or the non-religious. A candidate who thinks that health care and education are privilages and that government shouldn't ensure that people have affordable and reasonable access to them.

If I had to vote in an election such as the upcoming Presidential election, I would also end up voting lesser of two evils. I actually don't think it is a disastrous result either way -- life goes on --, but there are more proposals I would oppose on one side than proposals I would support on either side. 

"I vote because even if it's only a fraction of a fraction of a percent my vote is worth something."

I agree. It seems many people despair at how small a single vote seems. While individual votes may not seem to determine elections, cumulative votes do. You can't have cumulative votes without individual votes. One person abstaining from voting because one vote doesn't make a difference... probably doesn't make a difference. The problem is, votes have uniform value. If that logic applies to one person's vote, it applies to everyone's vote. Thousands of people abstaining from voting under that same logic may very well make a difference.

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