Go ahead, throw your vote away! A discussion on the “wasted vote”

Dave Owen, Opinion Editor

We need to understand, that even though a particular 3rd party candidate has no legitimate chance at winning the presidency, that doesn’t matter in a democracy. Democracy is not about who wins or loses, it is about the spread of ideas to allow for the best possible America we can build. – Dave Owen, The Dakota Student

As this election has evolved, individuals from both the Republican and Democratic parties have constantly argued that a vote for a third party candidate is throwing your vote away, and that a vote for said third party candidates is a vote taken away from either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump depending on who is arguing against you going third party. Furthermore, at the core of their argument they state that should you vote for a third party candidate it is a wasted vote because that candidate has zero chance at winning the general election. As a result, I am going to examine the severe flaws in this ideology and point out the interesting implications of this argument.

First we need to discuss the ‘lost vote’ fallacy. This argument stems from the fact that a vote for X is perceived to actually be a vote for Y. If you have taken a basic mathematics course, however, you will understand this is not the case. In a theoretical election, lets say there are 3 voters: you, a Donald Trump supporter and a Clinton supporter. In this election you decide to vote for a third party candidate, should either side’s assertion be true, the vote must end 2:1 for one of the two major party candidates. In reality, however, the vote ends 1:1:1 resulting in your vote did not have the impact of throwing the election to either party, but rather created a new scenario in which it is a 3 way tie as opposed to a 2 way tie. Additionally, this argument stems from fundamental ignorance, which states that the political parties own your vote regardless of the candidate, and that votes should be given rather than earned. Based on the logic presented here it is assumed that the candidate on each side has already earned your vote and has lost it, which is disjointed from the reality where neither of the major candidate has managed to earn your vote.

Once this argument reaches its course with the supporter of a majority party and they realize that it holds no mathematical or realistic validity, they fall back to the can’t win argument. This argument, although it has some minor variation basically follows as such: Do not vote for 3rd party candidate; because they can’t win you are only wasting your vote. As a result, I am happy to announce that all Democrats will now be voting for Donald Trump in North Dakota, after all Hilary Clinton can’t win in our state. Due to the way that the electoral college works, and the historical voting preferences of the state, in all but 20 percent of the states, it is abundantly clear that only 1 candidate has a chance of winning the state and therefore all of its electoral votes, yet Democrats still vote for Hilary Clinton in Texas, and Republicans still vote for Trump in Minnesota.  The reasoning for this, is because they truly don’t believe in the can’t win argument, they are merely using it to attempt to attack the legitimacy of your candidate in a lazy attack which has no real merit in the American Political system. As a result of this argument, you would also no longer have a 2 party system in most states, you would only have a single party system, which if history is any indicator would have disastrous implications to the democratic stability of the nation.

With this argument debunked, we can now move onto their last problem with a third party vote, the issue of politics. For whatever reason, people have tended to in modern society self-segregate from opinions that differ strongly with their own. Due to the nature of social media, and college in general we find ourselves locked in with people who mostly agree with us on the major issues, in fact it has been suggested that we as millenials are less likely to listen to new ideas, largely because we have never been confronted with them throughout our lives. Furthermore, with the 24-7 polarizing nature of modern news and media, people have created caricatures of the candidates and the issues at play in the election. In the face of this prejudice, you must be a philosopher of the movement, always attempting to enlighten no matter how you are being treated or how tired you are, remember Socrates still fighting for his cause on his death bed.

As a result of debunking their arguments, we now need to describe what a wasted vote truly is. A wasted vote, is only one where you vote for someone or something you don’t or cant believe in. This is the reason why we have a Democrat party in North Dakota or a Republican Party of Minnesota, not because their candidate is particularly viable in the state, but because a large group of people believe in their vision, and by talking about that vision and grant it exposure they hope to change the hearts and minds of those around them, to support their dreams and their vision of what Minnesota or more broadly America should look like.  A wasted vote is sacrificing your vision for that of another person simply because they ridicule your dreams, or they call your beliefs impractical when they have done nothing to convert your reasoning to that of theirs. We need to understand, that even though a particular 3rd party candidate has no legitimate chance at winning the presidency that doesn’t matter in a democracy, democracy is not about who wins or loses, it is about the spread of ideas to allow for the best possible America we can build.

Dave Owen is the opinion editor for The Dakota Student. he can be reached at [email protected]