Skeptical Voting

Skeptical of politicians, but you have to vote?

First off, as it’s printed on the front of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: DON’T PANIC. It’s okay, this isn’t another politically charged post about who to vote for or a piece on the merits and flaws of political ideologies.

We have a federal election this Saturday in Australia and for those of us over the age of 18 it is compulsory to vote. Yet many of us are disillusioned at the poor quality of political discourse and the lack of options available. In many ways it seems like science, reason, rationality and critical thinking are the big losers in this election. As has become usual, we are being told to leave our brains at the door, pick up the ideological flags and respond emotionally to cherry-​​picked facts that mislead and misinform.

Well, that sounds dark, horrible, miserable. I don’t blame you if you’ve stopped reading and gone to watch some cat videos to cheer up.

I hope I haven’t lost you, because the good news is yet to come. How about we compromise, watch this and then I’ll tell you the upside.

Now that you’ve cheered up a bit I am going to tell you the positive side. Here are some tools to sort through the mess and help you to use your critical faculties to make the best decision possible this Saturday. If you’re looking for help to vote with your brain this election you can’t really go past political fact checking and party policy alignment tools.

Fact-​​Checking

Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was an idea called investigative journalism. As much of journalism now seems to just be reporting, the need for re-​​branding the idea as fact-​​checking units has arrived.

While they differ in style and in other minor ways, they can all be very useful because they’ll fact check different things (so many “facts” are stated per day that one fact-​​checker isn’t going to check them all). Just read their descriptions and you’ll see how straightforward and similar they are:

ABC Fact Check
ABC Fact Check determines the accuracy of claims by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups and institutions engaged in the public debate.
The Conversation: Election FactCheck
Election FactCheck is an independent, non-​​partisan public service that will test the truthfulness of political statements during Australia’s federal election campaign.
PolitiFact (partnered with Fairfax)
PolitiFact Australia is a fact-​​checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and other influential people in the Australian political debate.

Whichever tool you use (I encourage using them all) will certainly have its faults, however, it is much better than just reading regular news articles or listening to the party rhetoric.

Party Policy Alignment Tools

Obviously one of the best way of making an informed decision on party policies is to go through and read all of the party policy documents (provided that they have released them). However, we don’t all have the time. A useful shortcut that helps you still be informed is to look at policy summaries and try some of the party compass tools that survey your views and compare them to the parties.

Policy summaries/​comparisons:

Political spectrum alignment tools:

Senate preference tools:

YOUR VOTE IS NOT WASTED!

Finally, as uninspired as you may feel this election (who knows, I might be the only one), please remember that in Australia your vote is never wasted (unless you spoil your ballot). Every vote counts, let’s support those who support a more rational, critical, forward thinking, humane approach to policymaking.

See this fantastic cartoon which explains why: “You can’t waste your vote!”

Stay skeptical

This election I encourage you to stay skeptical of what you hear, vote with your brain and not your gut, and hopefully we can each use our small democratic power to nudge public policy in a positive way.

Disclosure: I work for the ABC. Three of the things mentioned (ABC Fact Check, Where The Parties Stand and Vote Compass) are operated by the ABC. However, I encourage you to use any tools from any provider as long as they help you vote with your brain this election.

[Image adapted from Creative Commons licensed Flickr photos by 1llustr4t0r​.com and newtown_​grafitti]