The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Voting third party does more harm than good

3 min read

For many UMW students, 2020 will be the first presidential election they can vote in. In a two-party system, they risk splitting the vote by voting third party. | Tiffany Tertipes @tiffanytertipes on Unsplash


Life Editor

Voting third party does more harm than good

For most students on campus, 2020 is the first year we are able to vote in a presidential election. For some, it has been an easy decision. For others, neither of the two main candidates are appealing in the slightest. Instead of just not voting, many have found themselves supporting Democratic candidate Joe Biden simply because he is the opponent of Republican candidate Donald Trump.

However, in recent weeks I have seen a large uptick of supporters for Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen since her nomination back in May. This is despite the fact that since the creation of our current two-party system, no third-party candidate has even come close to winning the presidency. Voting for a third-party candidate in our current election system is a waste of a vote and can effectively alter the results for the worst.

Third-party candidates can cause problems even when they do not receive any electoral votes. The most common issue that occurs is vote splitting. These candidates end up taking away votes that would have gone to one of the two major parties, causing the opposing party to win the entire state instead. This is what happened in the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. The Green Party candidate Ralph Nader received almost 100,000 votes in the state of Florida, where there was less than 600 votes difference between Bush and Gore. If a small percentage of Nader’s voters would have voted for Gore instead, the Democratic candidate would have won the state and subsequently the entire election.

Even if the United States were to operate under a popular vote system for the presidential election, this problem would still happen. Most third-party candidates only receive a small percentage of the popular vote, but they still have the ability to completely alter the entire outcome if the main candidates are close enough in votes.

For those who support third-party candidates, whether it be for the first time or the umpteenth time, spreading the word to gain voter support is an essential goal. I have seen it myself on social media plenty of times. Every election is just like the last, claiming that this could be the year that a third-party candidate makes serious headway. (Newsflash! They never do.)

It is simply impossible for a third-party candidate to have even a small chance at winning the presidency for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, the United States is currently operating under a two-party system. You do not see members of the Tea Party or the Green Party in the Senate for a reason. Secondly, third-party candidates do not have the opportunity to be a part of the presidential debates unless they receive at least 15 percent support in the polls, according to the Commission on Democratic Debates. By not being present on the debate stage, those candidates are not able to be seen by undecided voters or be covered by mainstream media.

According to Pew Research Center, the largest voter group has been teetering on the edge between Boomers and Millennials since the 2016 presidential election. Most Boomers and a percentage of Millennials rely on mainstream media like television for their political news, meaning that if third-party candidates are not covered there, they are not reaching the most important age groups. No matter how much voter support is received on non-traditional platforms like social media, there must be an appeal to people who are not active on any platform.

With all of these variables in mind, there is no way that Jo Jorgenson or any other third-party candidate will be successful in the 2020 election that is only a few days away. Supporters will only be splitting the vote and possibly be causing the outcome they were trying to avoid in the first place.

If you are thinking to vote third-party simply because you do not prefer either of the two main candidates, you may want to think again.

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