Sun. Sep 27th, 2020

Third party voting minimizes electoral impact

Though it may be enticing to vote for a third party, doing so in the 2020 election will render your vote useless

With only 54 days until the 2020 election, tensions around the country are running at an all-time high. There is a lot at stake for a large number of people, and not many are exactly thrilled with the choices America’s two-party system has allotted them. This said, I am here as a voter and as a citizen to ask you — scratch that — remind you that voting third party is not a choice that is bound to help you or your fellow citizens.

Look, I am a sucker for democracy and personal freedom. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Count me in. How important do I think the right to free speech is? I am furiously typing on my whirring, overheated Dell to post an op-ed in a student-run newspaper. That is as first amendment as it gets. 

The United States simultaneously exists as a democracy and a republic and hosts a two-party system that has gotten progressively more partisan as time progresses. (Sorry George Washington!) While the two-party system structure was not so rigid a century ago when there was a healthy mix of conservative democrats and liberal republicans, today’s political climate is much different. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “The American two-party system was a pseudo-two-party system, because each party provided only a loose framework within which shifting coalitions were formed.” 

This is not to say that minority parties or aisle reaching are obsolete ideas. The Libertarian Party, for example, pulled 3.3% of the popular vote in the 2016 Presidential election according to Ballotpedia. Today, if I stopped someone on the street and asked them who the Libertarian candidate is for the 2020 Presidential election, my answer would be handed to me in the form of a quizzical look and a head tilt. I say this with confidence because I experienced this exact situation firsthand when I asked my three suitemates if they knew who Jo Jorgensen was. Their furrowing brows were answer enough. 

While scoring 3.3% of the popular vote was unprecedented in 2016, it was still too little to make any real difference in terms of garnering support from a national audience. In order for a third-party candidate to participate in the presidential debates, they must “have support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations”, as stated by The Commission on Presidential Debates. 

If the only reason you want to vote third party is to stroke your ego… know that you can write my name in for President and make the same splash.”

In addition to this, third-party candidates must pull 5% of the popular vote in order to be considered for public funding in the following race. For example, if Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received 5% of the public’s vote in 2016, the Libertarian party would have been eligible for public funding in this year’s presidential cycle. But even with the highest national support third party candidates have ever seen, the 5% mark was not met, and the Democratic and Republican parties continued to dominate the field.

The sad truth of the matter is that the Libertarian and Green parties were only as popular during the 2016 election as they were because the Democratic and Republican parties themselves were so disliked. While Dems and the GOP are still not exactly swooned over, polling from FiveThirtyEight shows that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is scoring above where 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton was at this time four years ago. To be completely blunt, this makes the argument for voting third party even weaker. There is virtually no chance for a third-party candidate to gather even a fraction of the support they need to make any true difference this election cycle. If the only reason you want to vote third party is to stroke your ego or humblebrag on Twitter about how moral you are, please know that you can write my name in for President and make the same splash.

I am not writing this article to bash third-party ideologies. I know that it is healthy to question tradition and act progressively. But I also recognize that in order to secure true cooperation and understanding among this country’s diverse population we need to act, and we need to act together. A vote third party is a vote for Trump. Refusing to vote is a vote for Trump. And looking at the current state of our country and our country’s relation to the rest of the world, that is the last thing we need. 

  • Jim

    I vote third party because that’s whose values I agree with.

    You saying – “Well you’re gonna lose so you should vote for who is closer to your values” is why we are stuck with this horrible two-party system to begin with. Terrible take. Good luck.

    • TD

      We are stuck with a two party system because a group of rich white plantation owners gave us the electoral collage. Anyone for a parliamentary system?

  • TD

    1912 Progressive party with Teddy Roosevelt – 27.4%
    of popular vote – more than Taft gave election to Wilson

    1968 George Wallace with AIP party carried several Southern
    states and impacted more which had traditionally voted Democratic – Nixon won –

    In 1992 Ross Perot got 19% of the vote and probably helped
    Clinton win.

    In 2000 Green Party Candidate Ralph Nader won enough votes in
    Florida that would have probably gone to Gore to flip Florida and the election
    to Bush. Bush lost the popular vote

    • SteveD

      Not only did Ross Perot probably help Clinton win, he also brought to the attention to the voters the issue of our national debt and spending. The 1990’s was the last time we had any fiscal responsibility in Washington D.C. I doubt we would have had that if it weren’t for the third-party candidate Ross Perot.

      • TD

        Republicans, Reagan, Bush (W), and Trump all promised that cutting taxes would grow the economy and result in higher revenues and balanced budgets. All three saw rapidly growing deficits. Reagan/Bush1 tripled the debt, that being the reason the debt was the subject of the 1992 campaign. Bush W left us with a Trillion dollar deficit. Trump increased the deficit each year and the Congressional Budget office estimate for 2020 was over a Trillion dollars deficit before covid. Heaven knows what another 4 years of Trump will mean for deficits and the debt. (Where did the so called Tea Party/Freedom Caucus go in the last 4 years?

        Clinton decreased the deficit (every year for first four years) or increased the surplus every year (last 4 budgets for which he was he was responsible). Clinton’s record was remarkable in the history of the US.

        Obama, except for his first year (the Bush/Cheney great depression) decreased the deficit every year.

        So if you do not like huge deficits and increased debt vote for the Democrats.

        All numbers from the St Louis Federal Reserve. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/FYFSD

  • William Dail

    Yet another another press report that uses it’s first amendment right to encourage voter suppression. The media constantly tells the voting public their vote for who they think will best get the job done right is a vote not worth casting. If the media would quit putting the other candidates under media suppression and black out they would actually see better results. Candidates need 15% in national polling to reach the Presidential debate stage. None of the major media polls have even bothered to list other candidates in their polls. Bad enough voters like your suite mates are too lazy to research their options on who is available to vote for. I really can’t blame them though, since the media doesn’t do their job and give third party candidates fair media coverage as is required under the Communications Act of 1934. The media suppressing fair coverage of other candidates is what keeps those candidates down and rewards the 2 major parties who continue to supply crappier choices each election cycle. Fair competition is the only way we get better choices.

  • Jason

    The whole point of voting 3rd party now is to make the more viable in the next election… If you are in a solid blue or red state, you have everything to gain by voting Gold this time around.

  • Jay Shoesmith

    What a crazy article. The reality is that we have two Presidental candidates with a mental illness and one who is a professor with a doctorate in Psychology and the writer advocates picking a candidate that has a mental illness. Your vote matters. Vote your conscious and vote Jorgensen!

  • SteveD

    Honestly, there are only two choices when voting…for the republican/democrat duopoly or third-party.

    Both Biden and Trump support spying on American citizens via the Patriot Act, adding trillions to our national debt, increased spending, putting children in cages, continuing the failed war on drugs, mass incarceration for victimless crimes, continuing to send our troops overseas, touching women, blaming the other party, etc.

    The better options are Jo Jorgensen and Howie Hawkins. (Did anyone else notice that this article stated, ” if I stopped someone on the street and asked them who the Libertarian candidate is for the 2020 Presidential election, my answer would be handed to me in the form of a quizzical look and a head tilt”…and yet failed to mention the names of the third-party candidates–just as the major news outlets do?)

  • TD

    If you do not like huge deficits and increased debt vote for the Democrats.
    Republicans, Reagan, Bush (W), and Trump all promised that cutting taxes would grow
    the economy and result in higher revenues and balanced budgets. All
    three saw rapidly growing deficits. Reagan/Bush1 tripled the debt, that
    being the reason the debt was the subject of the 1992 campaign. Bush W
    left us with a Trillion dollar deficit. Trump increased the deficit
    each year and the Congressional Budget office estimate for 2020 was over
    a Trillion dollars deficit before covid. Heaven knows what another 4
    years of Trump will mean for deficits and the debt. (Where did the so
    called Tea Party/Freedom Caucus go in the last 4 years?

    Clinton decreased the deficit (every year for first four years) or increased the
    surplus every year (last 4 budgets for which he was he was
    responsible). Clinton’s record was remarkable in the history of the US.

    Obama, except for his first year (the Bush/Cheney great depression) decreased the deficit every year.

    All numbers from the St Louis Federal Reserve. https://fred.stlouisfed.org