Another presidential election season is fully upon us. I tend to vote for third party candidates for presidential elections. I do this because I don’t think the two major parties do a very good job of representing me in government. I often like the messages I hear from third party candidates. I think that in general they are controlled less by “monied interests” (PACs, large corporations, wealthy political donors), probably because those types of donors don’t get much return on investment (ROI) for their third party campaign donations. I think that money has poisoned our political process, but that’s another story.
When I tell people who I plan to vote for (or who I voted for), I often get the response “You threw your vote away”, or something similar. I do not know who originated this term, but I have my suspicions. It was probably some democrat/republican political wag who doesn’t appreciate ideas outside the “party message”. What is the meaning behind this phrase, and is it true? What does it mean to vote, and are you throwing it away when you vote for a candidate who probably won’t win?
To me, voting is an important civic duty – your vote is your political voice. I try to make time to study issues and candidates positions and their background before I vote. Some people don’t think that a candidate’s personal life/beliefs/background is important, but I would like to ask those people this question: as a manager, would you hire someone to work for you without doing a background check and interviewing the person to see if they are someone you can work with? In any case, I know some people who don’t take any/much time for research before voting. They merely vote the party line or based on a few television commercials they may have seen. To me, this is throwing your vote away – it is voting without thinking, or only voting as someone else tells you to vote. Even worse, there are many, many people who shirk their civic duty and don’t vote at all. This is clearly throwing your vote away.
When people say that you threw your vote away, they usually mean “you voted for someone who has very little chance of winning – why did you do that when you could’ve voted for someone who has a chance of winning?” My response is this: I vote for the person who I agree with and who I think will do a good job. Of course there is never a candidate who I 100% agree with, but researching the candidates forces me to evaluate what I value in a President/Congressman, etc. Often the large political parties present me with poor choices (I’m thinking Bush/Kerry) and a third party offers me a better choice. If my candidate doesn’t win, I can live with it, but I made my voice heard and I have arguments to backup my decision. By their logic, if you voted for anyone besides the winner, then you threw your vote away – to me, that attitude is un-American. It seems that the “throw away your vote” idea is designed to spread uncertainty and doubt about non-mainstream candidates – basically to supress independent thinking.
So before you vote, do the research, and then if you’ve chosen someone who you think might not win, then don’t be afraid to “throw your vote away.”