geoffrey gauchet

I Ain't Wastin' Nuthin'!

I’ve always been a big supporter of third parties. I’m not saying I only vote for third parties, but I do when I agree with their candidates. And I think that’s a major issue people forget about when voting.

Political party affiliation is really just a “guide” to give you an at-a-glance understanding of where a candidate stands on a few key issues. Political parties are not a “team” you have to root for. If you are a registered Democrat, yes, you can vote for a Republican! The whole point of voting is to decide who best represents your ideals and beliefs and feelings and put that person in office for you, since you can’t be in office.

The unfortunate thing is that people feel they must vote along party lines to stay “loyal” or whatever. The problem is that now our two major parties — Democrats and Republicans — don’t really represent what people think they do anymore. The lines are blurry on a lot of issues, namely the economy and foreign policy, but are very clear on social issues. Well, sort of clear. Republicans are pretty much pro-life across the board but Romney is okay with abortions in the case of rape, which has made him unpopular in some Republican circles. That’s one example of many.

I’m not here to really tell you how to vote, though. If you’re a Democrat and want to vote Democrat to support your team, whatever, have at it. No, my point here is really dispelling the myth that a third party vote is a wasted vote.

Any time I mention voting third party, people tell me I’ve wasted my vote. This really bothers me. Why? It bothers me because I have not wasted my vote. As an American citizen, I have been granted the right to vote. When I walk into the voting booth next Tuesday and press whatever buttons I choose, I have used my vote. It has not been wasted. To me, the only wasted vote is the one not cast.

Sure, if I vote third party, there is a very high likelihood that my candidate will not win. Does that mean I’ve wasted my vote? Did McCain’s voters in 2008 waste their votes just because Obama won? No, they most certainly did not. So, why then is my third party vote wasted?

I vote on my ideals and principles, not party. I am registered with no party affiliation — not independent — no party. To me, this describes me very well. I am most closely libertarian in principles, but I am not a Libertarian. I liken this distinction to being conservative, but not being a Republican, or being liberal, but not being a Democrat. For me, this November 6th, there are two third-party candidates and one “No Party” candidate for whom I’m voting. It’s not because they have those distinctions next to their names. It’s because those candidates best represent what I think is right and what will make America even more awesome. (Full disclosure: I am voting for some Democrats and Republicans, too)

I refuse to accept any accusations that any vote I cast on Tuesday will be a wasted vote. If I vote, I did not waste my vote.

Here in Louisiana, we’re a Red State. All 8 (down from 9) of our electoral votes will likely go to Romney. What’s interesting about that tidbit is that 48.2% of voters are registered Democrats, versus 27.9% of voters being registered Republicans (and 24.2% of voters are third party) [source: LA Secretary of State]. Those numbers tell me one of two things: either Democrats are less likely to vote, or, a large number of older people registered as Democrats way back in the day and never officially updated their voter registration, even though they tend to vote Republican.

Anyway, given that the majority of voters in Louisiana are Democrats, Republicans have taken our state in 7 of the last 10 elections, so if you vote Democrat here, are you wasting your vote? Or because Republicans are a shoe-in, is their vote wasted?

(Another cool Louisiana voting tidbit: in the last 10 elections, Louisiana voted for the overall winner 9 times, the only exception being 2008 where LA voted for McCain, but Obama won.)

My vote will definitely count for something: according to the laws surrounding the Presidential Election Campaign Fund (publicly amassed funds given to major party candidates for their campaigns — Barack Obama was the first to ever turn down this money), the major party candidates will receive upwards of $20M toward their campaigns. The only way third parties can get this funding is if the previous candidate in their party got 5% of the vote. For example, if in 2012, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson receives 5% of the vote, the Libertarian party will not only receive their cut of the PECF for the 2016 elections, but may also qualify for back payment for previous years run.  So, if I vote third party, and others do, and that party receives 5% of the votes, next year they’ll have the same Federally provided dollars to properly campaign and advertise like the Democrats and Republicans get to. This can help level the playing field and give third parties a voice in future elections.

That’s a big deal! Obviously, I’m hoping my guy wins, but barring that, a 5% take of the votes would give his party the leverage they need to fight a more fair fight next election, and maybe actually take part in the debates with the Republicans and Democrats, which could really change how future elections are run.

So please, don’t tell me I’ve wasted my vote or that my vote is just a vote for some other guy — my vote is for my principles.

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