Quick-Takes: Voting Third Party

Illustration by David G Juarez
Illustration by David G Juarez

Expressing dissatisfaction with both major-party candidates running in November’s election, some voters are looking to third-party candidates. In response, some have criticized the so-called protest vote.

In Non-Swing States, Safely Promote Third Parties’ Prominence with a Vote

In the upcoming election, a significant amount of Americans have reported plans to vote for their third-party conscience over the lesser of two mainstream evils. In response, many shame these voters as selfish idealists whose wasted protest vote actually makes them complicit in electing the least desirable mainstream candidate. This kind of vote-shaming relies on misconceptions about our responsibilities as voters, especially in non-swing states like California where the exodus of voters to third parties happens to both major sides, and will not likely change statewide leanings.

Many forget that an electoral college ultimately elects the president, not a total count of individual votes, and this process funnels everyone’s votes first through a statewide level, and then nationwide. Many states, including California, have a solid leaning, and only a few swing states remain on the fence as to whom they will elect.

The goal of voting, at least in non-swing states, becomes a matter of securing more resources and recognition for third parties to shift the national discourse. According to the Federal Election Commission, if a party receives over 5 percent of the vote, it qualifies for a public grant of $20 million, or grants matching every private donation that meets certain conditions.

If the Green or Libertarian parties qualify, this could give them the campaign infrastructure they need to participate in primetime debates and secure ballot access in enough areas next cycle to build movements that better represent American opinions. Voting should not feel like a twisted prisoner’s dilemma, but rather an earnest bid for accurate representation, and — at least in non-swing states — there seems like no downside in helping secure funding for marginalized parties that might just challenge our dismal status quo.

– THOMAS FINN, Senior Staff Writer

To Lay the Groundwork for A Third-Party President, Start Locally

It is true that third-party politicians ought to gain a stronger voice in American politics. Independent parties have not held more than two seats in the Senate since 1941, according to the U.S. Senate. However, the growth of the third party will come from winning elections at lower levels and building support locally, not from what the Huffington Post describes as “random performance in presidential elections.” We must, in the words of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, “channel that frustration with the system into making government work.”

In the close presidential race ahead of us, channeling such frustration is more crucial than ever. Advocating for a third-party candidate at the presidential scale yields a marginal impact for the third-party agenda and — given how support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has not far surpassed 10 percent — is certainly less significant than preventing a Trump presidency. Sixteen years ago, George W. Bush won by 537 votes. Donald Trump could be next.

The Libertarian platform calls to abolish environmental regulation, public schooling and income tax, a mass privatization conflicting with the progressivism millennials supported in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Yet, according to a Quinnipiac poll, 29 percent of Americans between 18 and 34 would vote Johnson if the election occurred today. By voting a third-party platform in protest, we detract from the lead Clinton currently has. Clinton’s policies may be generally center-left, but with support from Sanders and Warren, she has developed progressive stances, such as making college free for 80 percent of students. As stated by President Barack Obama, “all the work we’ve done over the last eight years is on the ballot.” A vote for a third-party candidate may very well obliterate much of the progress made by the Obama administration.

– AARTHI VENKAT, Senior Staff Writer

To Eliminate “Lesser of Two Evils” Dilemma, Change Voting Process

Rather than argue over the significance of third-party voting (or lack thereof), voters discontent with our current two-party system should look toward overhauling our elective process in general by implementing immediate runoff voting, which helps multiparty systems.

The largest flaw with our current voting system, oftentimes called “First Past the Post Voting,” is the so-called spoiler effect which decreases the prevalence of third-party candidates by encouraging voters to vote against the candidate who they most dislike. A third party, therefore, will ultimately hurt its own interests by drawing away votes from the most similar candidate and allowing the opposition to win. Voters recognize this and often only vote for one member of the two-party system, not a third party.

A far better voting system called alternative voting, or instant runoff voting, works by having citizens rank their candidates from least to most desirable. Once the ballots are counted and, assuming no single candidate has a majority (greater than 50 percent) of the first-place votes, then the candidate with the fewest number of first-place bids is eliminated and the votes from those ballots are then transferred to whichever candidate was listed as the ballot’s second choice. This cycle repeats until one candidate gets a majority of the cast ballots.

Because voters could accurately vote for their most desired candidate without fear of the opposition winning, third-party candidates would be far more viable under this system. It is therefore essential that concerned citizens lobby their elected officials to move toward a more balanced electoral system that allows for political newcomers to enter without fear of hurting their own interests.

– NATE WALKER, Editorial Assistant

View Comments (4)
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal

Comments (4)

All The UCSD Guardian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • D

    DudetteNov 1, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Vote for Gary Johnson to end the DNC-RNC duoploy. A 5% result will get the Libs universal ballot access. Every 4 years one party tells US the other dude is worse. It is a fallacy. Mitt Romney was better than this year’s batch. We need real change. More opportunities for more less divisive voices.

  • O

    ottoOct 3, 2016 at 9:32 am

    The National Popular Vote bill ensures that every voter is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

    With the current system of electing the President, none of the states requires that a presidential candidate receive anything more than the most popular votes in order to receive all of the state’s or district’s electoral votes.

    Since 1828, one in six states have cast their Electoral College votes for a candidate who failed to win the support of 50 percent of voters in their state

    Not a single legislative bill has been introduced in any state legislature in recent decades (among the more than 100,000 bills that are introduced in every two-year period by the nation’s 7,300 state legislators) proposing to change the existing universal practice of the states to award electoral votes to the candidate who receives a plurality (as opposed to absolute majority) of the votes (statewide or district-wide). There is no evidence of any public sentiment in favor of imposing such a requirement.

    In 905 elections for governor in 60 years, the winning candidate received more than 50% of the vote in over 91% of the elections. The winning candidate received more than 45% of the vote in 98% of the elections. The winning candidate received more than 40% of the vote in 99% of the elections. No winning candidate received less than 35% of the popular vote.

    Since 1824 there have been 16 presidential elections in which a candidate was elected or reelected without gaining a majority of the popular vote.– including Lincoln (1860), Wilson (1912 and 1916), Truman (1948), Kennedy (1960), Nixon (1968), and Clinton (1992 and 1996).

    Americans do not view the absence of run-offs in the current system as a major problem. If, at some time in the future, the public demands run-offs, that change can be implemented at that time.

  • O

    ottoOct 3, 2016 at 9:29 am

    California has enacted the National Popular Vote bill.

    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 pre-determined outcomes.
    No more handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support among voters) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ states, like California, that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    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.


  • O

    ottoOct 3, 2016 at 9:27 am

    This year one should not ASSume it is safe in any state to vote third party. Too much is at stake.

    -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.