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.
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.