The 2016 presidential elections have already been a source of pain, pride, and humor for the American public, from Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer, to Trumpbridge, to everyone feeling the “Bern”. But now, seven weeks before the election, many voters still don’t know whose name they will be pulling on their ballot. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are polling record numbers of dislike among voters. For many, voting for the one that most agrees with their political views is voting for the lesser evil. So that leaves a question that many have been asking; why not vote third party? Contrary to popular belief, voting third party is NOT a waste of a vote, and it is not going to help the candidate that you dislike more win.
Voting is not betting, as it is often approached as by politicians, but instead a means of exerting the influence you have as an American citizen. When voting for who you consider the lesser of two evils in the general election, your vote signifies that you agree with the views of the nominee you are voting for. For example, in 2000, flocks of voters turned out at the polls to vote for Ralph Nader, a green party candidate, because they agreed with his very liberal stance. Although both he and the democratic candidate, Al Gore, lost, the strong showings that Mr. Nader had in the polls led the Democratic Party to create a more liberal stance during the 2004 and 2008 elections. By voting for the candidate who most agreed with their views, voters were able to sway the political stance of a major party during future elections. And so far in this election cycle, the same has been happening. The widespread support of Bernie Sanders, and his very liberal stance, showed the Democratic Party that they needed to create a more liberal platform.
If you were a fan of Senator Sanders, then maybe you’ve heard of Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president. Like Sanders, her campaign focuses on human rights, including those of LGBTQ+ persons, the raising of the minimum wage to $15/hour nationwide, the creation of free public colleges, a switch to 100% green power, and so much more. If you find Hillary Clinton the lesser of two evils in the coming election, then you should consider casting your vote for Dr. Stein– although there’s a next-to-nil chance she’ll take office, your vote could help make the democratic party’s stance more liberal in 2020.
But voting third party doesn’t only affect liberals. Although a larger percentage of votes for Stein could reinforce Sanders’s call for a more liberal democratic platform, votes for more conservative parties, such as the libertarians, could eventually sway the republicans to adopt a less socially conservative platform. Voting for a third party candidate isn’t likely to get them elected, but it is going to spread your message to American politicians– that you want change and want it now. Voting third party, whatever your political standing, is more likely than ever before to affect the stances of major parties in the future.