News and PoliticsOpinion and Editorial

Voting Your Conscience

The polarity of this election season has given birth to many new third-party voters. When given the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, many Americans cannot help but choose neither. Some voters do this by simply abstaining from voting, yet some speak their voice. It is certainly true that many people—both Democrats and Republicans alike—believe that a third-party vote is a wasted vote. This begs the question: why bother?

From left: Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party presidential nominee, and Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party presidential nominee

Recently, there have been several articles published which berate those who choose to vote third-party, calling them “naive” and “nonsensical.” The editorial board for The Brown and Whitea Lehigh-based newspaper is quoted as saying, “the thing is, those who advocate for voting for a third-party candidate don’t understand that America is set up as a two-party system,” but that does nothing more than oversimplify a very broad situation. It is easy to dismiss third-party voters as uninformed and inexperienced voters who just want to go against the grain. It is harder to make an attempt at understanding the issues that independent voters care about. Ultimately, it comes down to this: not everyone agrees on what a “vote” should truly represent.

David Marcus, a senior contributor to The Federalist, wrote this in his recently published article, “Why A Protest Vote For Trump Is Better Than Voting Third Party”:

“Donald Trump is not going to be president of the United States. As the election winds down, those of us in the Never Trump camp, while wrong about the primary, have been proven absolutely right about the general election. My greatest fear in regard to the election, a Trump presidency, is not going happen.”

Marcus clearly established that he is strongly opposed to Trump. Yet, only one paragraph later, he wrote:

“It is very possible that voting for Trump as a protest against Clinton is the best chance I have to stave off a Clinton administration that runs roughshod over the American people.”

So, where exactly does this line of thinking come from? It is difficult to wrap one’s brain around the fact that someone from “Never Trump camp” will be casting his one vote for Trump himself. One thing, however, is very clear: Marcus is a polarized example of the flawed lens through which people view independent voters. The idea that casting a vote for the candidate you morally abhor is better than voting for a third-party candidate must be somewhat insulting to those who plan on doing the latter. Whether or not you find Marcus’ views legitimate, it is important to realize that he will be in the majority by voting for a candidate that he does not like. According to a report published in The New York times, less than 10% of all Americans chose Trump and Clinton as the nominees. This election season, most people will be choosing the candidate based on which one they hate the least rather than which one they love the most.  

Getting back on track, one thing that Marcus truly fails to do in his article is to consider the perspective of someone other than himself. To many people, a vote is nothing more than choosing one presented candidate over the other. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC) pump them out, people choose which one they like more and that’s the end of it.  If an individual chooses to vote that way then so be it. To many others, though, a vote is an opportunity to utilize their (albeit small) influence on the political system based on their beliefs, ideologies, philosophies and morals. Generally, these types of people vote on moral grounds, which is why most will abstain from voting for both Clinton and Trump in this election. This is the same reason that a sizable percentage of lifelong conservatives will be unable to vote republican this Nov. 8.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (L) speaks as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (R) listens during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (L) speaks as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (R) listens during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York.

Of course, Marcus is free to cast his vote however he wishes based on what he thinks is best. Nobody should be allowed to tell him how to use his voice. But since that is the case, he is also wrong to discourage third-party voters. Who are we to say that someone is “wasting” his or her vote? If someone votes their conscience and feels confident that they did the right thing, would it not be narrow-minded to consider that a “waste?” Is it better to vote for a candidate you believe in or agree with or to vote for a candidate who you see as the lesser of two evils? Again, that really comes down to the way you view your vote.

During election times it can become difficult to look at the big picture. Most of us Americans are guilty of locking in on the candidate we most agree with and then demonizing their opponent. Once the general election begins, each side begins its own “Us vs. Them” mentality. And let’s face it: there are basically two sides. After all, third-party candidates are almost completely absent from the media spotlight. This means that both sides, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, view third-party voters as the “other.” This is why most voters think of a third-party vote as nothing more than a vote for the opposing side. A two-party race is considered imminent by the average voter, which leads to both sets of voters being upset at anyone who does not vote for the candidate they like more.

Your vote is yours to express. Not only is it your right but also your duty as an American citizen. Whether you vote based on your conscience or you vote “just because,” make sure you get out to the polls this Election Day, Nov. 8.