Amy Herbert has never met Robert Knight, but on Thursday she will go to a polling station in southwest England and – acting against her own political beliefs – cast a ballot for Mr. Knight’s preferred party, the Liberal Democrats. She’ll do so trusting that Mr. Knight, an ordinary voter like her, will reciprocate by marking his own ballot for the party she really supports, the Labour Party, in his own constituency. Thursday’s election in the United Kingdom is unlike any of those held before it. Every polling firm says the result is too close to call, and a hung Parliament is considered all but a certainty. At the end of an almost six-week campaign, few were daring Wednesday to predict what the country’s next government will look like. With the race so tight, voters are being pressured to vote tactically – that is, to cast their ballots with one eye on the candidates in their local constituencies, and the other on the big picture of how the each race could affect who becomes prime minister.
Many Britons, like Ms. Herbert and Mr. Knight, are taking the idea a step further and sending their votes to wherever they think it will have the greatest impact. Tens of thousands have entered into informal pacts – brokered by vote-swapping websites that have sprung up for the election – where each person promises to vote for the other’s party of choice.
The voting on Thursday is expected to be followed by days or weeks of political uncertainty, with Conservative Leader David Cameron and Labour Leader Ed Miliband mounting rival efforts to build enough support in Parliament to claim the prime minister’s job.