Which votes are decisive?

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In the latest episode of The Boys in Short Pants (recorded and uploaded before the final count in Courtenay-Comox had begun), political scientist David Moscrop says:

“Everybody should vote. Voting is important. I actually happen to support mandatory voting. But when someone says this is evidence that every vote counts, that’s still wrong, because eight of those votes weren’t decisive.”

I think that’s almost exactly right. But which of the nine votes was the decisive one? In fact, it’s impossible to say that any of the thousands of votes cast were decisive. This isn’t just a fact that we’re unable to discover, for whatever reason; in this case, there actually is no fact of the matter to discover. If what it is for a vote to count is for that vote to be decisive, then no votes count. That doesn’t mean voting is unimportant. But it does mean that the importance of voting cannot be explained by the effect of particular votes on the outcome of an election.


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