Facebook group offers chance to swap election votes

About 300 people from across the country have become members of the "Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada" group on Facebook since it debuted Wednesday morning.

Jenna Little wants to mark her ballot for the Green party, but she says she doesn't want to waste her vote.  

So, the Mississauga, Ont., woman has joined a group on Facebook to swap votes with someone in another Ontario riding during next month's federal election.

"I just met my match on the site," the 24-year-old paralegal said Thursday.

"She's from London, [Ont.]. She's willing to vote Green if someone else will vote Liberal, and Mississauga just happens to need a Liberal vote, so I'll go Liberal."

About 300 people from across the country have become members of the "Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada" group since it debuted Wednesday morning.

Alongside a grinning, flag-waving beaver, the site states: "Stop Harper and advance a progressive agenda without betraying your personal beliefs."

Mat Savelli from Hamilton, Ont., said he started the group to keep Stephen Harper and the Conservatives from winning a majority government.

The website lists 41 ridings that will likely be close battlegrounds, including Parry Sound-Muskoka in Ontario, Vancouver Island North in British Columbia and Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in Saskatchewan.

Conservative MP Tony Clement won the Parry Sound riding in the last election by a slim margin of 28 votes.  

"If you could just switch 28 NDP supporters or Green supporters and get them to vote Liberal, that would have been one less seat for the Conservatives," said Savelli, who is now in Romania working on his PhD in history but plans on voting from abroad.

He said a handful of swaps have already been agreed to on the site, which runs strictly on the "honour system."

He expects most people are waiting until the week before the election to assess the polls and make a decision.

"If we could change the results in one riding to overturn a Conservative victory, that would be massive," Savelli said. "But more than anything, I want people to be able to continue to support smaller parties.

"One of Canada's greatest electoral features is the fact that we have a multi-party system."

Savelli said he got the vote-swapping idea from American friends, who watched "vote pairing" grow popular on various websites during the 2000 presidential election campaign.  

The VotePair website boasts that it had nearly 30,000 members and 2,700 voting pairs during the 2004 presidential race in the U.S.

Despite protests and attempts to close such sites down in the United States, American courts have cleared the way for the practice.

Vote swapping is also popular in the United Kingdom. The Canada Elections Act states it is an offence to offer or take a bribe for a vote or improperly provide or be in the possession of a ballot.