Thursday, November 09, 2006

Are Third Party Votes Wasted?

About a week and a half ago, I voted. In a comment, Bob wrote:

John, I appreciate your views and your vote for libertarians I value my vote to much to waste it on third party candidates. The last major third party candidate was Ross Perot unless you count Nader.So what happened when masses of people voted for Perot they ended up electing someone further removed from their own view points.While the lesser of two evils isn't the optimum way to choose it's still less evil.

I dispute the idea that minor party votes are wasted. In the Montana US Senate race, the voting margin between the Republican and Democratic candidates was 2,874 votes. The Libertarian candidate won 10,324 votes. In the Missouri US Senate race, the margin between the Republican and Democratic candidates was 41,537. The Libertarian candidate won 47,007 votes. Had those Libertarians voted for the Republican candidate, the GOP would control the US Senate. That was a very real possibility, had the Republican Party at any point in recent history supported small government. So when advocates for small government perceive that the GOP no longer represents their views, they vote Libertarian, and their departure is enough to cost the Republicans elections. Consequently, libertarian-minded voters are a punitive stick against Republican tendencies to support expanded government. Therefore minor party votes are not wasted.

Notice how Al Gore is not President of the United States? Enough people voted for Ralph Nader of the Green Party to result in the election of George W. Bush. Had Gore not been perceived as moving too far toward the political Center, then those votes might have been his, and the history of that Presidential term might have been drastically different (for good or ill).

That was the impact that those Green Party voters had on the course of American (and world) history. How can their votes -- or any minor party vote -- be seen as wasted?

Now it may be argued that third party voters often end up with a worst result that that which they voted for. If, for example, an advocate for small government votes for a Libertarian candidate instead of a Republican, s/he may end up with a Democrat instead, who openly advocates expansionist government. Well, I for one can see no difference between the government expansionist tendencies between either party. If Libertarian votes cost the Republicans elections, it's not the fault of the Libertarian voters; it's the fault of Republican public policy. Periodically, libertarian-minded voters give the GOP a good, hard spanking. And the GOP deserves it every time.


gavin richardson said...

i voted green party in our senate race. i don't consider it a waste, but i think most folks felt it was so close between the two parties that to have votes make a difference it had to be for those two candidates

Dan Trabue said...

I often vote Green and don't consider it a waste, but it is sort of a bad idea strategically for me.

What we truly need - Dems, Greens, Libertarians and Republicans - is to endorse changes to the election process to make minority parties more viable. This will allow:

1. More people to vote their conscience and,
2. Result in better representation

(as it is now, folk with Libertarian or Green values usually go unrepresented - a horrible reality for a great number of us).

I think something along the lines of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) would help this. Be sure to google that and support it in this season of change that is upon our gov't.

As to this comment:

"he may end up with a Democrat instead, who openly advocates expansionist government."

With reality being that gov't expanded most under Reagan/Bush/Bush and slowed its growth or shrunk under Carter/Clinton, that is hardly a fair statement. It is a popular myth and naught else.

codepoke said...

Best argument for TPV I've ever heard. I'm sold. Thank you.

John said...

With reality being that gov't expanded most under Reagan/Bush/Bush and slowed its growth or shrunk under Carter/Clinton, that is hardly a fair statement. It is a popular myth and naught else.

Very true.

Oloryn said...

The change I really want to see in our voting is the addition of another line in each electoral race: "None of the Above". If "None of the Above" gets sufficient votes, the race has to be re-run, with none of the current candidates eligible. Actually, I'd go one further...if "None of the Above" wins, the current candidates become ineligible to run for any office for some number of years. If nothing else, it would cut down on negative campaigning, as negative campaigning against an opponent would be just as likely to result in a vote for "None of the Above" as it would result in a vote for yourself.

John said...

I heard that they did that in Russia a few years ago. It would be a fun experiment.

Keith Taylor said...


In Tennessee, most of those those third party votes were a waste. A majority of the folks that voted for the 5 3rd party candidates that were running would have probably voted for Harold Ford, Jr (D) and not Bob Corker (R)who won. The number of third party votes that were cast would have most likely made a difference in that race. I am a republican but I personally think Ford was the more qualified and better candidate. If I still lived in Memphis, that is who I would have voted for. I think he would have won if if were not for the 5 - third party candidates siphoning off votes that I think he would have gotten.

If you had not have voted Green, and could only have chosen between the two, would you have voted for Corker or for Ford ? But who did you end up with.

John said...

Were I a Green voter in Tennessee, I would argue that that was the price that Ford paid for moving too far toward the center.

bob said...

Government barely functions now, how well would it function with more parties.

John, You may think that it is spanking the Republicans, but aren't you spanking yourself as well when voting for the unelectable. What we really need is better communication with our representatives so they truly represent us. We should all take the opportunity to communicate with our Senators and Congressmen, ask questions and push for causes. In this way we will find out if someone deserves the office they hold or will hold.

John said...

Bob, if we promise to only vote for one of the two parties, neither is encouraged to reform. If, under some rubric, I must vote for a candidate a hair's-breadth to the Right of the Democratic candidate, then the Republican candidate has no motivation to be more than a hair's-breadth different than his Democratic counterpart.

That's not good enough.

bob said...

John, The time to push either Republicans or Democrats in the direction you prefer is the primaries. If a candidate is letting you down by all means vote him out. Waiting for the general election to vote them out only hurts your own cause and the country. Especially at a time when the Supreme Court seems to be moving more towards strict constructionists and away from those who judge by public opinion or what foreign countries are doing. Now we can only hope the ultra liberal judges hang on until the numbers are there in the senate to ratify the type of judges who won't work the constitution to move some kind of agenda.