People have said to me before, that they don’t like either candidate. As a result they vote for the one they dislike the least, or don’t vote at all. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a candidate out there somewhere that they like; it simply means that of the two major candidates, neither is acceptable. Voting in America tends to follow the two party system, usually a Democrat vs. a Republican these days. While this may work to an extent it is inherently flawed. In the two party system, minor parties like the Green Party, and Libertarian Party, and the Constitution Party, etc… are considered to be “third parties” and typically only receive a fraction of the vote.
Having a two party system requires a polarization of the country, leaving no middle ground. There are numerous views of social issues and policy issues, but the two party system would seem to suggest otherwise. For example firearms, drugs, welfare, foreign policy, abortion, and other very controversial topics tend to polarize people. Mostly this is because when it comes to voting you have only two options.
The Problem With Voting For Third Parties
So called “third party” candidates are usually available to vote for and offer alternative philosophies to choose from. However, many people consider voting for them to be a waste of a vote, since you’re essentially voting for a candidate with a very limited chance of winning. For example, in the 2010 midterm election, I voted for a third party candidate, who happened to receive less than 1% of the vote. Did I waste my vote? Well yes and no. With my vote for a third party, I effectively stated that, I liked neither of the two main candidates. However, did my vote go toward the win or loss of one of the major contenders? Absolutely not, and my vote was no more wasted than if I had voted for a major candidate that lost. This last part is perhaps the most important flaw of the two party system. If there is a third party that people would actually vote for, it becomes a very real risk that one of the mainstream candidates could lose a significant portion of the vote. So what? You may ask. Well the problem with this is best illustrated with an example.
Candidate D is a Democrat, and candidate R is a Republican. Under normal two party voting, R may receive 55% and D may receive 45%. In this case R wins.
Let’s add a third party, let’s say that L is the Libertarian party and L’s views are more similar to R’s than D’s. Now in this race L is doing very well and has really captured the interest of the voters. Maybe R gets 35%, L get’s 20% and D retains his 45%, in this scenario D effectively wins because L and R split the vote of their supporters.
This is where the real danger lies in voting for a third party. If you split the vote, then the winner is not necessarily the candidate that the majority of people would prefer. This can be very problematic and is a major reason that third parties don’t usually get the vote. Not because people disagree with what they’re saying, but because people fear that voting for a third party will split the vote in such a way that an undesirable candidate would win. Consequently, many people weigh the risks and conclude that a less desirable candidate with a strong backing is a better deal than a completely undesirable candidate.
So what can we do about this? Well perhaps the only solution would be to modify the voting system so that people could vote for who they really wanted without fear of splitting the vote. I’d personally like to see a ranking system in the ballots so that we could rank the candidates in order we’d like to vote for them. For example, let’s consider the candidates R, D & L that we mentioned earlier. Perhaps I really like candidate “L” and would be ok with candidate “R” but I really dislike candidate “D.” If we had a ranking system I could order them to reflect my preference and that could be taken into consideration when tallying the votes. Maybe assigning point values to each rank position or allowing voters to allocate points to each candidate, so maybe L would get 100 points, and R would get 90, but D gets 0 so as to reflect the voting preference. This way we would be assured that we could truly vote for who we wanted and not have to fear wasting the vote on a candidate who is unlikely to win or inadvertently splitting the vote in a way to help another candidate win.
Sadly the voting system won’t likely be modified anytime soon, and as such we’re stuck with the flawed 2 party system we currently have. All we can do for now is go with the flow and vote for the lesser of two evils, or vote our conscience and know that we stood on principle. The two party system is a perfect example of the logical fallacy called “False Dilemma,” or “False Choice.” We are presented with two choices so as to make it appear that there are no middle ground options, when in fact there are. We should be careful not to buy into this notion and remember that there are alternative options.