What does a wasted vote look like?
Is it cast on different paper? With a unique pen? Is the voter who casts it forced to stand at a special booth in an isolated part of the voting location? Is it processed through a different counter than the others? And what about the sticker at the end? Will it say “I wasted my vote?”
I’m curious because several people have told me recently that my vote will be wasted. And though I couldn’t disagree more, I marvel at the fact that so many people have bought into this lie.
The definition of a wasted vote is one that is cast for a candidate who is not formally taking part in an election. So in November, if I write in Winnie the Pooh on my ballot, I will have wasted my vote, since the “chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff” isn’t actually participating in the 2016 race. Likewise, if I write in the name of a candidate who has not been approved for my state’s ballot, my vote will be wasted because it will not be counted.
A more stringent definition is this: any vote that is cast for a candidate that does not win the election. In other words, on November 8 of this year, it is possible that a whole lot of Republicans or a whole slew of Democrats will have wasted their votes because they cast their vote on behalf of the losing candidate.
Given the latter definition, my vote may very well be “wasted.”
You see, I will not be voting for either candidate, because I believe that each is inept and untrustworthy. I fear them both equally because they are unqualified for the job, but I am not ruled by my fear of what might happen if one of them wins.
John McAlister, former Libertarian candidate for Congress, wrote in 2000 that a vote is as much a message as it is a choice of a winner. He explained that a vote communicates what each voter’s vision of government and leadership looks like. So while my vote will never be the swing vote that wins an election for one candidate over another, it will be my means to communicate my values and beliefs to the leadership of this country.
But this election, like so many before it, isn’t simple to interpret, because while some people will vote for one candidate, others will vote against another. And the distinction is an important one.
Let’s assume for argument’s sake that someone reading this intends to vote for Trump next month. As the returns come in that night, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus will no doubt puff his chest a little farther with each vote for Trump, and he will mentally congratulate himself for successfully promoting the party’s candidate. But he’s ignoring the possibility that the vote wasn’t so much a vote for Trump as it was a vote against Hillary.
Same with Interim Chair of the Democratic National Convention Donna Brazile: Each vote cast for Hillary will, in the minds of party leadership, affirm the Democratic Party’s platform and agenda. But it will ignore the possibility that the vote was cast by someone for whom Donald Trump was simply not an option.
My vote, on the other hand, will not be difficult to interpret at all. My vote will very clearly send a message to each party that the candidates they have championed do not represent me or my beliefs. My vote will very clearly be a vote against the lie that there are only two parties participating in the election. My vote will send a message to Governor Rick Scott of Florida that he cannot force me into voting for Trump by refusing to allow other candidates to be included on our state’s ballot. My vote will very clearly indicate that I do not support the two parties and their strong-arm tactics against candidates like Bernie Sanders who, although his programs run counter to my beliefs, would make a much better president than the two candidates on the ballot simply because he is trustworthy and honest.
My vote will communicate clearly that I am not willing to sacrifice the things that are important to me on the altar of party loyalty. And my vote will communicate clearly that the leadership of this country should not ever, ever make the mistake of taking my vote for granted.
If Hillary Clinton wins in November, there may be those who will suggest that 3rd-party voters like me helped her get there, but I don’t shrink from that accusation. I embrace it. I whole-heartedly celebrate the fact that there will be consequences for the party that allowed us to get to this place by telling voters one thing in order to win office, and then completely failing to follow through once they were there. I welcome the conversations about politicians who put the good of the party before the good of the country. I relish the discussion about the party whose credibility is such that Trump, in the opening days of his campaign, reserved the right to leave it because he doubted he would be treated fairly; or the party that ensured that Bernie Sanders would never succeed.
And lest you think this is a last-ditch effort to affect the election’s outcome, I assure you it isn’t. I’m not trying to sway anyone to a particular action. I’m simply suggesting that there are more than two options here for people who are unhappy with the choices. I’m simply pointing out that the tired, false contention that a third-party candidate can never be a viable option is touted most often by the two parties who have the most to lose when we, as a populace, latch on to that reality.