Editorial: Don’t vote for a third-party candidate


This editorial was written by Em Okrepkie and signed by Samantha Tomaszewski, Klaudia Jazwinska and Musa Jamshed. The other members of the editorial board did not sign this editorial. Their dissent can be found here

Americans will rise from their beds Nov. 8 to do something they can only do one Tuesday every four years.

They will head to the polls at local fire halls, schools and churches. They will walk to a booth to either pull a lever, touch a screen or fill in a bubble. And just like that, they will vote for one of the two candidates running to be the future president of the United States.

Or not.

Some Americans will vote this upcoming Election Day by writing in a candidate for president or voting for a third-party candidate. These Americans, however, won’t actually be voting for the next president. They simply will be casting a ballot for someone who will never be seated in the Oval Office.

As Americans, we have a right and a privilege to vote. It’s our civic duty that not everyone is afforded. With that comes a responsibility to vote and to vote responsibly. Voting for a third-party candidate or writing in a candidate is not voting responsibly during this election.

Many who are voting for someone other than Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton are choosing to cast their vote as a protest vote.

In an election where 23 percent of voters don’t like Clinton or Trump, it’s tempting to make a case for voting for a third-party candidate. The thing is, those who advocate for voting for a third-party candidate don’t understand that America is set up as a two-party system. While it seems noble to vote for the ideal third-party candidate, it is not sensible.

Almost 10 percent of Americans will vote for a candidate other than Trump or Clinton. This means none of these other candidates stand a chance at winning. It also means that in an election as close as the current president election, those who do not vote for one of the two main candidates could inadvertently swing the election the wrong way.

In an election where emotions are high, please vote rationally and vote for one of the two candidates who have a chance to win.

In an election where voters in swing states have more of an impact than ever, please don’t throw away your vote by voting for a candidate who does not have a chance to win.

Either you vote for Hillary Clinton because you want her to become president, or you vote for Donald Trump because you want him to become president. If you vote for a third-party candidate, you are effectively saying you do not care who becomes the next president of the United States and leader of the free world for the next four years.

The two choices aren’t perfect, but they are the choices.

When Ross Perot ran as a third-party candidate in 1992, he ended up with 19 percent of the vote, which seems impressive until you realize he still didn’t win a single state because electoral votes are awarded based on a “plurality.” The American electoral system is designed for a two-party race at the presidential level.

If America were a multi-party system, then voting for another candidate other than the Republican or Democrat may be helpful. But America is not a multi-party system. To add to that, more people don’t vote than do vote. So, those who vote third party will be lumped in with those who do not vote. So much for meaningful civil disobedience.

Bernie Sanders, who some insist they will write in as a form of protest, has advised against voting for a third-party candidate.

Sanders, who ran for a Senate seat in Vermont as an independent, has encouraged voters to cast ballots for independents and third-party candidates in local elections, but he insists the presidential election is not the place to do this. These outside candidates can, sometimes, win local elections. There is no chance they can win presidential elections.

Al Gore, who lost the presidential election in 2000 in part because of third-party votes that went to Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, also discouraged people from voting third party “if you care about the climate crisis.”

Civil disobedience has been the catalyst of progress many times in this country, but that civil disobedience was strategically timed. The voting booth this November, however, is not the time or the place for civil disobedience to protest the two-party system of the American government. If you vote for a third-party candidate, you are wasting your vote on a useless form of civil disobedience.

Even worse, you are conceding a vote. A vote for a candidate other than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is a vote for whichever candidate you like the least. If you vote for someone other than these two individuals, you are effectively saying you do not care who wins the election, so much so that you will not vote for either of them.

It’s admirable those who are voting third-party or write in say they are doing so because of some sort of moral obligation that will allow them to sleep at night, but those individuals also seem to forget that they have a moral obligation to ensure the country is run by the best individual who actually has a chance of running it.

If you don’t vote for one of the two candidates who can win, you don’t get to complain when either Trump or Clinton wins.

You don’t have to like it. You can argue against the system and fight for a change in the future, but the fact of the matter is that in this moment, America is a two-party system.

When you go to bed on Nov. 8, sleep well knowing you voted for Trump or Clinton, one of the two candidates who will become president of the United States. Sleep well because even if your candidate didn’t win, you did your civic duty you voted and voted responsibility.

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  1. This is an incredibly short-sighted and demeaning article, and I am not at all surprised that the 3 other members of the editorial board dissented. It amounts to nothing more than attempting to bully independents in to a vote that they don’t want to make.

    Americans have a duty to vote. Who they vote for – regardless of party affiliation – is their choice and their choice alone. Some will vote for a candidate simply because that is the party they have always voted for. Others will vote because a celebrity tells them to, or because a certain celebrity endorses a certain candidate. Still others will vote for a candidate because they have done their homework on who best matches their political and moral leanings on various stances. Some will vote for a candidate simply because they don’t want the other one to win – as the signing editors have suggested undecided or 3rd party voters do. These are all incredibly irresponsible (and uneducated) ways to vote. Voters *should* vote based on their beliefs, by finding the candidate whose stances best match their own – this is the crux of a representative democracy.

    Sometimes (as in this election and Ross Perot’s election) the best match is a candidate not belonging to the Democrats or the Republicans.

    America is only a 2-party system because of this perpetuated myth that “your vote doesn’t count unless you vote for someone who can actually win.” 5% of the popular vote going to a 3rd party would allow them equal federal funding. 15% of the popular vote in pre-election polling would allow them access to debates, where they would be free to spout their vitriolic nonsense – or not – to the American public, just like the other candidates.

    Our government has become incredibly divided by the exact “us-or-them” attitude that this article has trotted out. We have a Democrat president and a Republican legislation that both seem more interested in a glorified urination contest for “party pride” than in serving the American people. It has paralyzed our legislature and hampered attempts at progress from either side of the aisle. It was my hope that with this election we would see a return of the moderate voices which have been so severely lacking for the last 8, 10, 12 years. Unfortunately, the Republican primary devolved in to a circus show dominated by a realty TV star, and the Democratic primary tapped their golden child via backroom deals and the Wasserman et al. scandal.

    It amazes me that the same Brown and White that desires inclusion of diversity in the student body for dissemination of perspectives is actively pushing for the opposite when it comes to the election. The inclusion of diversity in the American electorate would have the same results as that in the student body – a broadening of perspectives, a softening of hard stances, and cultural progression. Why is this a bad thing? Because you flat out don’t like 3rd party ideas? No. It is simply that you’re scared that they will take votes from your team, thus letting the other team win. Us versus them.

    If that does end up happening — and it might — perhaps it’s time that your team takes a good long look at their stances and reconsiders their positions. Wouldn’t want to lose those independent voters in the next one too, right? You might actually have to worry about the independents instead of just trying to bully them in to fitting their square peg to a round hole.

  2. I beg to differ!

    If you vote you do get to complain because you did take part in the process. In addition the victor will be my President and that should entitle me to complain as a tax paying citizen.

    I am a Catholic who has recently voted mostly for Republicans after many years of voting mostly for Democrats. I will confess that Bill Clinton received two of my votes in years where very few other Democrats did. Considering recent revelations and her extreme liberal thinking, I will not vote for Ms. Clinton. Considering Mr. Trump, I will not vote for him. I plan to vote for Mr. Johnson of the Libertarian Party. This is definitely a protest vote. I would probably have voted for any of either Democratic or Republican candidates given that their opponent was either Ms. Clinton or Mr. Trump.

    I am hoping that a significant number of voters vote Libertarian, Green or write-in to indicate their disappointment with the ultimate winner of this years Presidential voting. Yes, our system will ensure that the victor will be a candidate that I choose not to vote for.

    Unlike Mr. Perot’s candidacy, which diluted the Republican vote, protest votes this year are likely to dilute both Democratic and Republican totals. Neither winner could then legitimately claim a mandate, Given the way in which electioneering has progressed I think a mandate would be claimed even if only 10% of eligible voters actually voted.

  3. Don’t care if this makes the site or not, I just stumbled across this on a Google search. Just wanted to say, good point, but F off with what is my civic duty. For anyone who hates the two-party system, which you aren’t even defending, you’re essentially saying “contribute to the problem instead of fixing it.” You’re probably right about it being too late for this election, but this is a serious problem that I/others believe in strongly. I don’t know any of you obviously, but based on your names, I would bet that at some point, somebody of power or authority has done something to you or your community that you didn’t like or think was fair. Was your response, “there’s nothing we can do, just go with it?”

    If you wanna vote for Hillary, vote for Hillary. If you wanna vote for Trump, you’re an idiot, but vote for Trump. But I’m not voting for Hillary just because she isn’t Trump. It’s not my “civic duty” to elect someone I don’t want as my president. In fact, I feel it more my civic duty to do what (small things) I can to promote other candidates and hopefully try to eventually get them up on the debate stage and be taken seriously. I know that isn’t in direct response to your editorial, but that is why I feel no obligation to vote for Trump or Clinton and am anger towards people who tell me to.

  4. I’m struggling with whether the authors have any self-reflection regarding their tone in this editorial. It comes across as ‘holier than thou’, in the sense that independents or anyone not already committed to Hillary or Trump are simply wayward, misguided, or uneducated souls. Further, it implies that only Democrats and Republicans are entitled to votes. I think we all understand quite well the influence that the electoral college system has on the outcomes of the elections. This does not, however, diminish any citizen’s Constitutional right to their own vote based upon their own assessments and beliefs. You also assume that any vote not for Hillary or Trump is a protest vote. What about those who actual fundamentally agree with the principles of the Libertarian, Green, Constitution, Reform, or other parties? For us it’s not about civil disobedience, it’s about voting our beliefs. Just because they have a much smaller chance of winning the election, does not mean a person should vote just to ensure a certain outcome.

    You claim Americans have a duty to each other to vote for a candidate with a chance of winning. I disagree. Instead, each candidate has a duty to the American people – to illustrate to them that they would operate the executive branch of the federal government in alignment with ways they believe are just and appropriate. If a candidate cannot convince someone of that, why should anyone be forced into that decision? It’s Trump or Clinton’s responsibility to win my vote, not my responsibility to vote for whichever one might win that I like best (or dislike least). It’s my responsibility to be educated, understand the responsibilities of the President, understand the positions of the candidates, and vote for who represents my beliefs. I may be a minority in this country, but it just so happens my beliefs are not well aligned with either of the 2 major parties. I’m much more likely to see change that I would like by voting for my preferred candidate than voting for a candidate whom I disagree with. By voting for either Clint or Trump as you suggest, my distaste with the way the country is run would be entirely muted, and even misconstrued as support for their specific agendas.

    You claim responsible voting is voting for Trump or Hillary. Responsible voting is voting for a candidate that will champion a type of government that you feel passionate about. Neither Trump nor Hillary share a majority of my views on the role of government. Based on your instructions I should ignore my own beliefs and views and vote to ensure Team A or Team B wins. How do my values and beliefs ever get incorporated into policy and legislative discussions if I do not vote accordingly? Save for active petitioning of local, state and federal government, my vote is my next most powerful tool. As an American I am entitled to the right to give my vote to the candidate I deem most qualified and aligned with my beliefs. That is voting responsibly.

    I applaud the editorial board for providing a dissent that was logically prepared and coherently delivered. I also applaud that the Brown and White has allowed debate on these editorials online.

    To those who don’t wish to be bullied into a 2-party choice, or don’t feel as if people such as these authors are entitled to their votes, you have other choices. Consider the most experienced ticket on the ballot in all 50 states this year: Gov. Gary Johnson and Gov. Bill Weld. The core of libertarianism is about the freedom for individuals to make choices (that do no harm others), so in fact a vote for the Libertarian ticket (or other 3rd parties) is indeed a protest vote; a protest against the bullying attitudes of persons such as these authors who do not wish the American people to realize they have more than 2 terrible choices for President.

  5. In ordinary plurality voting a vote cast for a splinter candidate generally produces the politically counter-productive effect of helping the major-party candidate whose views are diametrically opposite to those of the voter.
    For example, votes cast for Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr made it easier for Democrat Barack Obama to win North Carolina in 2008.

    The current state-by-state winner-take-all system does not protect the two-party system. It simply discriminates against third-party candidates with broad-based support, while rewarding regional third-party candidates. In 1948, Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace both got about 1.1 million popular votes, but Thurmond got 39 electoral votes (because his vote was concentrated in southern states), whereas Henry Wallace got none. Similarly, George Wallace got 46 electoral votes with 13% of the votes in 1968, while Ross Perot got 0 electoral votes with 19% of the national popular vote in 1992. The current system punishes third-party candidates whose support is broadly based.

  6. By 2020, the National Popular Vote bill could guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    Every vote, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election.
    No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of predictable outcomes.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    The bill was approved this year by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).
    The bill has passed 34 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 261 electoral votes.
    The bill has been enacted by 11 small, medium, and large jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.


  7. A survey of Pennsylvania voters showed 78% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

    Support was 87% among Democrats, 68% among Republicans, and 76% among independents.

    By age, support was 77% among 18-29 year olds, 73% among 30-45 year olds, 81% among 46-65 year olds, and 78% for those older than 65.

    By gender, support was 85% among women and 71% among men


  8. My state is very blue and I’m sure Hillary will win by a landslide so my vote wouldn’t matter no matter how I casted it. With that being said, my vote for Gary Johnson will help him get one step closer to the 5% of the popular vote he needs to earn the libertarian party a chunk of government funds for the 2020 elections. If more people did that for Johnson and stein then there might be a legitiment four party election the next go round.
    So tell me again how my vote is wasted… It seems just the opposite to me. I encourage anyone in any state to vote for their candidate regardless of their chances of winning and in any state other then swing states, a vote for Trump or Clinton is a totally wasted vote if you don’t support either one.

  9. Pingback: That damn glass… – CONTRADICTING MIND

  10. I am 47 and finally going back to college. The following was written for Comp II. We were to analyze 1 editorial, but both sides of your editorial staff done such a good job, I could no longer follow instructions!

    One may find it odd that the most logic I have found in editorials about the upcoming election is from non-other than the so-called Millennial generation. These college students wrote two excellent editorials on differing views of the viability of a third party candidate. I suggest reading both; they are chocked full of opinion that can be argued properly on both points of view. Both editorials are written rooted in logos, with many offshoots in pathos. Much like the American public, the editorial staff is divided when it comes to this election. Each side of the editorial points of view makes very well presented arguments about voting for a third party candidate, as well as pointing out it is every American’s civic duty to vote and vote responsibly.
    Written pro-third party candidate.
    Written anti-third party candidate

  11. To the authors of this editorial —

    I cannot believe that you have equated voting for a third party candidate to civil disobedience.

    Is voting for the candidate that most closely reflects your own opinions somehow equivalent to not paying taxes?

    Read Thoreau sometime. Learn what civil disobedience really means.

    Whoever gets elected needs to know what the opinions of the electorate are. You don’t communicate that by voting for the lesser of two evils when there are other options. We don’t want either Clinton or Trump claiming a mandate just because no one dared vote according to their conscience.

    (I’ve ranted at length on this, if you care to read something in opposition to your opinions: http://free-is-not-free.blogspot.com/2016/09/make-your-vote-meaningful-vote-for.html.)

  12. Anonymouse 235 on

    BS. I’m sending a message when I vote for anyone other than Trump or Clinton. I’m telling them what a poor job the government is already doing. I’m letting them know that neither one of the above candidates are acceptable by me nor anyone else that I’m certain of. If we’re lucky maybe people will have realized what a bad idea both of them are and will vote smarter. We as Americans have a choice. To concede and vote for the two is unAmerican. If we vote for a third party we are doing what we should be doing. We are making it clear that we don’t like this America and that this America needs real change.

  13. I guess your “advice” didn’t work? This is what you get. The DNC rigged the election for a weak candidate and now we all have to suffer under this nightmare.

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