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Election Nightmare: You Still Shouldn’t Vote Third Party

The surprising impact of the Electoral College on voters across the U.S.

Lily Yates, Quintessence Copy Editor

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Take a look at any one day’s headlines from the past year alone- the record says it all. With two dynamic partisan candidates garnering constant – and often negative – attention, this election cycle has left many feeling at best torn and at worst repulsed by voting. But voting third party or writing in a candidate are possibly most dangerous of all.

To begin simply, based on past elections, states are generally recognized as “red” or “blue” in terms of electoral votes (read: voters in that state have more or less consistently leaned toward one party). The outliers, the “swing” states that tend to lean towards different parties each election year depending on the candidates themselves, are few but powerful.

But why does all this mean I shouldn’t go out and vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein? There’s more than one reason.

In certain states, candidates like these aren’t even put on the ballot to begin with, given they didn’t qualify. This means that as a protest vote, they’re essentially worthless and wildly inconsistent from state to state. Next, these candidates have rarely ever even qualified for a seat in the electoral college. They are only counted in the popular vote total, and in this case your carefully completed ballot basically gets flung into the abyss.

Finally, third parties always hurt one of the two partisan candidates, meaning with enough resistance, a partisan candidate could lose a swing state to the other simply due to all those third party votes not specifically for them.

Given my reasoning, I am assuming a few things here about you as a voter or prospective voter considering a third party vote:
You don’t particularly like 2016’s choice of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. You want your vote to really count in some sense; you vote to produce results rather than to simply wave a moral flag in the wind.
You try to vote according to your conscience.

So yes, it might hurt to give ground. But at the end of the day, will you let your personal grudges and misgivings make you into a passive watcher of the future of the United States, or would you rather sacrifice some pride and see your hopes and dreams for this country come to fruition? Decide. Then, wait for Election Day. I close with a quote from a 2016 article by A Medium Corporation contributor Clay Shirky.

“Throwing away your vote on a message no one will hear, and which will change no outcome, is sometimes presented as ‘voting your conscience,’ but that’s got it exactly backwards; your conscience is what keeps you from doing things that feel good to you but hurt other people. Citizens who vote for third-party candidates, write-in candidates, or nobody aren’t voting their conscience, they are voting their ego, unable to accept that a system they find personally disheartening actually applies to them.”

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