In discussing tactics for voting in presidential elections often votes cast for third party candidates are described as wasted ballots or alternatively as possibly helping to elect the greater of two evil candidates.
|This article is designed to show that both criticisms are based upon misunderstanding the purpose of voting from the standpoint of the individual voter. Some discussions appear to assume that voting is something like betting. From this point of view voting for a third party candidate is irrational a wasted or losing bet. The statistics are clear: " Since 1988, third party candidates have averaged less than one tenth of a percent of the popular vote. With that in mind, it is fair to say this year’s leading third-party candidates are polling much better than average." Yet recent polling give Green Party candidate Jill Stein an average of just 3.1 per cent nationally, while Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has an average of 8.6 percent. If voting were like betting one would demand huge odds before you would place your bet on a third party.|
In cases like California and Texas, where the results are often lopsided, the wasted vote logic could be applied to major party candidates. Should Californians planning to vote Republican or Texans planning to vote Democratic skip the election or vote differently simply because their vote “won’t count”? If a vote for a major party candidate destined to lose isn’t “wasted,” the same must be true of a vote for a minor party candidate also destined to lose.
To those left leaders who say they agree that the Democratic Party is hopelessly corrupted by corporate cash, but propose a “strategic” vote for Clinton “just this year,” we should ask: Why not at least urge a vote for Jill Stein in the majority of the country that are considered “safe states” like New York, where Clinton is up by 18%? Given the Electoral College system, the election will really be decided in a small number of swing states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
Strong showings by the Libertarians, Greens or other third parties in the 2016 election are very unlikely to prevent a Trump or Clinton presidency. But they could affect the positions presidential candidates take in 2020 and beyond.If the showings are strong enough this could also encourage the growth of third parties and mount a challenge to the existing system. Third parties also give voters the opportunity to vote for candidates that represent policies closer to those that they prefer than do candidates of the two major parties.