With an election right around the corner and a mention by Saur in a blog post, and others in the past, about a third party vote being a "wasted vote", I would like to ad my two cents worth about why I will be wasting my vote this year.
I don't believe a third party vote is a wasted vote and would argue that a wasted vote is a vote for someone you know does not represent your own beliefs and principles. A wasted vote is a vote for someone you know will not lead the country in a way it should go. A wasted vote is a vote for the "lesser of two evils." Or, in the case of John McCain and Barack Obama, what we have is a choice between the "evil of two lessers." I believe our current election process has come down to a popularity contest instead of being based on preference.
Consider three examples that show a third party vote isn't wasted. In 2000, George Bush carried Florida and thus the election by 537 votes. Ralph Nadar received 97,421 in Florida. In fact, all seven of the other third party candidates received more than 537 votes in Florida. In 1992, Ross Perot won 18.9% of the popular vote making him eligible for federal funding for 1996. (15% of the vote is required before government funding is given.) Ross Perot's third party run in 1992 though successful, was still only the second best showing second to Theodore Roosevelt's "Bull Moose Party" run in 1912 that garnered him 27.4% of the vote.
These campaigns of third party candidates are not acts of spoilers or vanity. These are people who believe it is a constitution that is the governing document of our Republic. These are not people who want to address the current economic crisis by giving crooks on Wall Street $700 billion dollars and themselves $110 billion stuffed in a pork barrel. These are not people who are continually getting us into foreign policy debacles such as Vietnam and Iraq wars. These are not people who worry about keeping millions of donor's dollars in reserve for their inaugural balls or buying $150,000 wardrobes at Saks 5th Avenue. These are not people who support giving illegal aliens amnesty and a path to citizenship. These are not people who expressed support for sending combat forces for "peacekeeping purposes" against foreign countries even if those countries do not pose a threat to the United States. These are not people who support NAFTA or the United Nations. These are not people who believe in shrinking the size of the government. These are people who are campaigning to bring systemic changes in the "politics as usual" America even though we the people have a history of voting for "change" that never seems to happen when voting Republicrat.
I argue that voting for a candidate other than the best representative of our views has the opposite effect. If a candidate already knows that he has our vote, he will then concentrate on moving their platform away from our desires in order to court the votes of people far from my own. I really fault John McCain's campaign this time around for doing exactly this. Instead of being a maverick as he has in the past, he has been busy codifying the extreme right.
If the lesser of two evils does win, it won't be my fault because I didn't vote for them. In fact, it will be the fault of anyone voting based on popularity or FEAR (especially in this election and the previous one) rather than policies, issues and ideals.
Even if my vote has little chance of affecting the outcome of the election, in this case Obama in a landslide according to recent polls, it does and can influence policy and future elections. The groundwork laid by Nadar in the 2000 election are still being felt even in this election as both candidates spent large amounts of time and money courting the independent middle during the primaries. Unfortunately they haven't learned to court the middle after the primaries are over, but they will learn eventually. Rome wasn't built in a day.
If just 15% of voters vote for a third party, that candidate won't win, but that party will receive federal funding and debate time in the next election cycle. This would truly be a change to our broken political system.
So I have made up my mind. This year I will be "wasting my vote" for president by voting for the Baldwin/Castle ticket. I encourage you to vote for the person that best represents your principles. By voting only in this manner will we ever be voting for true change.