Third party votes waste opportunity

Katie Cavender, co-editor-in-chief

After months of campaigning and build-up for next week’s election, I’m a bit frustrated with the way things have been going. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are extremely hard to take seriously, and both have flaws that many U.S. voters believe make them unfit to be president. Either one could significantly change our country’s future, and it is almost certain that one of them will become president.

I say “almost certain” because, despite the way the media may make it seem, there are more than two candidates whose names will appear on the ballot for president, and every candidate technically has a chance to win. (Dramatic pause for surprised gasps.) This happens every year, but according to recent polling data in the New York Times, about nine percent of Americans have been considering voting for a third-party candidate in the 2016 presidential election, which is significantly more than in previous years.

If you are one of these Americans, I implore you, please, do not do it. While it may be your first instinct to put your vote toward someone you disagree with less than the two mainstream candidates, a vote for a third-party candidate will be a wasted one.

Because of the electoral college system that the United States follows, the percentage of votes that go to third-party candidates almost never count in the grand scheme of the election. Since 1968, according to Wikipedia, there was never a presidential election where a third-party candidate earned any electoral votes. Why would that change this year?

According to, Utah is the only state where third-party candidates dominate the polls for the 2016 election. However, even if a third-party candidate were to win Utah, they would gain only six electoral votes out of a total 270 that a candidate needs to win.

In each state, at least six percent (usually more, between 10 and 20 percent) of polled voters have demonstrated a preference for a third-party candidate. In almost all cases, the difference between the preference for Clinton or Trump is so small that if the third-party voters changed to one party or the other, it would decide the vote for that state.

While a vote for a third-party candidate would be a waste, third-party voters changing their mind at the last second could change the course of the election. The best course of action, if you fall under this category, is to simply pick Clinton or Trump. No matter how painful it may be to simply choose whom you see as the “lesser of two evils,” it is the most effective way to ensure that you at least had some say in the outcome of the election.

The United States’ political system is far from perfect. A great example of its flaws is that in the 2000 election, George W. Bush won based on the electoral vote and not the popular vote, but he still became president. While we call ourselves a democracy, the methods by which we choose our elected officials often discount much of the country’s opinion, splitting the choices into two polarized major political parties. I cannot even begin to explain the flaws in this dichotomy.

Perhaps in the future, there will be a political revolution in the country that tears down the two-party system and allows for more voices to be heard in large-scale elections. However, for now, Americans are realistically presented with two choices for president. I won’t tell you which to vote for, but the harsh reality is that one of them will be elected. Make your voice heard. Don’t waste your vote on a third-party candidate.