That No One Asked For
First, don’t vote for Trump.
I have a hard time understanding the earnestness with which people point out third party candidates can’t win an election. I suspect there’s a desire to feel like you voted for the winning candidate. If that’s how you feel, it kind of makes sense to not vote third party. If you vote for a mainstream candidate, there’s still ~50% chance your vote won’t be for the winner, yet no one seems to lament those votes as “wasted.” I guess having a ~50% chance of voting for the winner feels better than x% chance of a third party.
With the current system, most states’ electoral votes go to the candidate with a plurality of the vote. If 45 vote for α, 44 vote for β, and 11 vote for γ, then α gets all of the electoral votes. This means only one vote is actually the pivotal vote. Each additional vote for the winning candidate has, technically, no effect. The likelihood of a state’s electoral votes being decided by one — and only one — vote is so incredibly small. So small I don’t think it’s worth worrying about. More: “Why Vote?”
What about the “spoiler effect”? If only those tens or hundreds of thousands had voted for _____ instead of a third party, the election would have gone differently. I reject these types of arguments. They are pure speculation and only serve to blame voters for the failures of the parties. You control your vote, not the vote of countless others. You are not responsible for a party/candidate that cannot convince you to vote for them. More: “The Myth of the Spoiler: Why the Machine Elites Fear Democracy”
The above is why I feel perfectly fine about voting third party (or abstaining, but that’s another post) and encourage others to explore third party options.
I know the system is heavily rigged against third parties and meaningful change. For example, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is run by the mainstream parties and keeps third parties out of the presidential debates. Supposedly, if a candidate averages 15% in five national polls, they can be included in the debates. CPD has not announced which five polls it’s using for the 2016 debates yet. The criteria to be in the presidential debates should be that you’re on enough state ballots to potentially win. Gary Johnson (LP) has a pending lawsuit against the CPD for exactly that.
Speaking of state ballots, the mainstream parties do a lot to stop third parties from even getting there. It varies from state to state, but let’s take Illinois for example. “New” parties must create a petition with a full slate of candidates; they cannot run a candidate for only one office or a handful of offices. Established parties don’t have that restriction. Then the “new” party must collect 25,000 signatures and addresses of registered voters for the petition. Established parties only need to collect 5,000. The signatures can only be collected during a specified 3-month period. The signatures can and will be challenged by the other parties. Signatures can be voided for simple errors like using an address different than your voter registration. The Libertarian Party of Illinois collects about twice the amount of signatures needed to ensure they’ll meet the 25,000 threshold, after challenged signatures are removed.
I try to stay grounded in reality about all of this. I realize the likelihood of a third party winning is very small. That’s no reason to vote for a mainstream candidate, though. Even small results could mean breaking important thresholds. Imagine if the Green and Libertarian Party were in the televised debates and millions were exposed to alternatives, probably for the first time. If a third party gets 5% of the vote, they’re eligible for public funding from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund in the next election. That would have amounted to about $10 million this election.
If you vote, make it for something, not against something else out of fear.
Finally, don’t vote for Trump.