If You Don’t Like Your Voting Choices?

Recent polls suggest a significant percentage of voters, especially younger voters, may not vote at all in the coming Presidential election, largely because they don’t like either major party candidate.

I can certainly understand people not liking the choices facing them in the coming Presidential election. I haven’t liked the choices presented by either major political party for decades.

But that’s no reason not to vote. In fact, not voting effectively supports the candidate you find most awful, because not voting deprives the less bad candidate of your vote. So does a vote for a non-viable third-party candidate. Throwing your vote away on a non-viable candidate may make you feel good, but the only impact is to support the major party candidate you find most distasteful or least capable.

And voting against an incumbent to “punish” him for not doing all you wanted or taking a single action you disliked intensely can backfire if you vote for a candidate whose record and/or promises are at odds with your beliefs and requirements, because the only person you’re punishing is yourself.

Voting reflects life. Sometimes, we don’t get ideal or even good choices, only a choice of which downsides to accept in jobs, housing, schools, or other areas. The same is true of politicians. The choice is between flawed candidates, because all candidates are flawed to some degree, just as all people are. So, if you vote, the choice is about which flaws you can accept, and which you cannot.

If you decide not to vote, that’s a choice as well, and that’s the choice to let other people decide, which, to me, is a form of cowardice.

11 thoughts on “If You Don’t Like Your Voting Choices?”

  1. Dan says:

    Blindly voting based on whatever you have heard from the echo chambers that social media has become is not much better. It permits a demagogue, like a particular candidate, whip up a frenzy of people to support them. Reasoned, educated voters who vote for candidates at the local, state and federal levels and who have taken the time to learn about each candidate, their past performance and their platform are what democracy needs to thrive. This should not be an excuse to not vote, but an impetus to do some research. I have found myself voting “across the aisle” on each election cycle because the better judge, sheriff, etc had signed up with the party I disagreed with. I also don’t think that third parties are “throwaway” votes. When a third party takes a sizable portion of the votes, the primary parties listen and start addressing those concerns. It is a delayed effect, but no less important for that. Immediate concerns may take precedence, but I can not suggest that one should only vote for the less bad option of 2 when there are other options.

    1. In the 2000 Presidential election, Ralph Nader ran as a third party candidate, getting over 97,000 largely liberal votes in Florida, and Al Gore lost Florida by 547 votes — and the election. In 2016 Jill Stein obtained enough votes that if a majority of those voters had voted for Hillary Clinton, Clinton would have picked up three more states and won the election. In practice, there’s no statistical basis for your contention that “When a third party takes a sizable portion of the votes, the primary parties listen and start addressing those concerns” because in the last century, no third party has ever garnered enough votes to make that occur.

      1. Wren Jackson says:

        To take it a step further, we don’t have a 2 party system because 2 specific parties hold it. We have a 2 party systems because choices continue to fall into Binaries and people congregate to whichever side fits them the best.

        If Libertarians, for example, managed to win an election and get real power, it wouldn’t become a three party system, one of the two major parties would essentially slide just a bit and fit into Libertarian and in a decade or two people would complain about the Dems and Libs forcing a 2 party system…

  2. Bill says:

    This is why ranked voting is a good option. People can still vote for their preferred candidate but not have their vote be for the opposite of what they want.

  3. KevinJ says:

    People shouldn’t focus so much on the particular candidate, if they don’t like either, not this year.

    This year is the chance to vote against those who support, or at least do not condemn, insurrection.

    If that doesn’t motivate people to vote…!

  4. Tim says:

    In the UK, our upcoming election will likely mirror this issue. Many Conservatives are likely to either not vote or vote for Reform, a new fledgling right wing party.

    The polls believe this will give the Labour party a landslide in England, as well as likely gaining many seats in Scotland, though for different reasons.

    As for Reform, like UKIP before them, the polls predict they will get a lot of votes, but spread across the country with only one or two elected members due to the first past the post system.

    Polls are, of course, not an exact science.

  5. Tom says:

    “I haven’t liked the choices presented by either major political party for decades.”
    You and me!

    But if – “If you decide not to vote, that’s a choice as well, and that’s the choice to let other people decide, which, to me, is a form of cowardice.”- then cowardice seems a little strong if ‘not voting is a choice’ rather than merely laziness. It seems from our discussions here, and increasingly in the media over at least the last two decades, that not voting may not be laziness but is more likely evidence of selfishness. My opinion is that choosing the freedom to not vote conflicts with our responsibility as citizens and thus our patriotism for our nation. However as of 2014 there were only 22 out of 195 recognized countries where voting was mandatory (no help for the cowards).

    Ranked voting has its problems: https://ballotpedia.org/Ranked-choice_voting_(RCV)#Arguments_for_and_against_ranked-choice_voting

    It seems the best system for a two party nation is the first past the post system we use in the US (mostly). Theoretically the one system with the most choices is the Representation Electoral Systems such as used in Spain, Turkey, Israel, Estonia, Finland, Brazil and the Netherlands: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party-list_proportional_representation

    1. Bill says:

      I thought ranked choice was a good idea but now that I saw who was against it, I am even more for it.

      1. Matthew Runyon says:

        I have rarely seen a comment I agreed with more than yours, Bill.

  6. Hanneke says:

    With the US voting system of first past the post gets all the votes in the Electoral college, it seems there are only a handful or so out of all the states where the outcome isn’t abundantly clear beforehand. So wouldn’t voting for a third party candidate who better expresses your preferences be okay in all those predetermined states?

    It’s only in the possible swing states where voting for a third party could mean victory for the worst candidate.
    In any states where there is even an outside chance of the state changing away from (or to) your most-disliked outcome you need to vote strategically instead of with your heart. Those are the votes that will have a very disproportionately heavy weight in deciding the outcome.

    In all other states you could follow your heart in your voting and not shift the outcome at all – those (often gerrymandered) votes have almost no influence, from what I’ve learned about your electoral system.

    Maybe a more nuanced message would resonate better. A map with all the possible swing states and the message: if you live here you need to vote strategically to keep the worst candidate out of office; if you live in the other states you can vote for whoever you prefer.
    That way you needn’t antagonise the most fervent green supporters in the solidly blue states, but make their shared responsibility for the worst outcome clear to those 3rd party voters in the swing states.

    On the other hand it would most graphically demonstrate that the USA is not a pure democracy where every vote counts the same, which neither of the leading parties want to deal with…

  7. Wren Jackson says:

    To paraphrase a famous comedian.

    I may be a fan of the Arizona Cardinals, but I didn’t go the Superbowl and cheer them on… Because they weren’t playing. The choices were San Francisco or Kansas City.

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