Many voters consider voting for a third party candidate a "wasted vote." But is your vote really wasted if you choose to place a vote outside of the two main parties?
In order to fully understand the effects of alternative voting on elections, you should know a little about Duverger's Law. The law basically states that any voting system that determines victory by "whoever gets the most votes wins" will naturally become a two party system. (You can learn more about Duverger's Law here.)
According to Duverger's Law, with our current voting system we will always have two major parties; smaller parties who aren't able to gather votes on election day automatically have their influence neutralized. In other words, people who otherwise want their positions represented and supported by outside parties are better off advancing their causes through one of the main parties.. Alternatively, third party candidates don't seem to have a chance of victory on election day.
Side note – The term "third party" can be a bit misleading. It makes it seem as if there are only two parties and there could possibly be room for three. However, there are actually many more political parties in this country than are brought to our attention. You can find a list of some of them here.
The choice to vote for a third party candidate usually comes down to one of a few things.. You may choose to vote third party simply because you can't bring yourself to vote for either of the other two candidates. OR.. You may choose to vote for a third party candidate because you simply refuse to vote for either of the other candidates. You should also keep in mind that by voting for a third party candidate you could possibly be making a decision to make some short-term sacrificeson policy and governance to take a risk on potential long term progress towards a society you would like to see.
The biggest con to voting third party may be the fact that it may put someone you view as the "greater of two evils" in a position to enact a range of policies you severely disagree with at the time. When making the decision to vote for a third party candidate, you should also keep in mind the fact that the major parties have the upper hand because they have more money and more recognition. Also, most people won't even consider voting third party because they believe candidates outside of the 2 main parties don't stand a chance. Anotherreason is that most people aren't as familiar with third party candidates. For example, a great majority of voters, among some of you possibly reading, don't know who else they could vote for besides the two main candidates. This couldbe a result of a misinformed people molded by an overly active media.
However, among all the negatives, there are good things about alternative voting. Perhaps the biggest pro to voting third party is that your signal to the government is recorded. The government may not acknowledge that signal now but it shows elected officials and future candidates a lot about the public opinion. This is where third party voting can be useful. If a third party candidate receives enough votes to affect the outcome of an election, this is a sign to current elected officials and future leaders that his/ her ideas may be worth a little consideration. If you're thinking long term, voting third party is a great thing. The ideas of third party candidates today could be what your major party candidates are supporting tomorrow.
The media doesn't want people to vote third party; they constantly call the candidates that get the "throw-away" votes SPOILERS. Why??? Because it ruins the myth that there is only room for two political parties in the United States. Third party voting shows that there are more choices than tweedle dee and tweedle dum. This is why the majority of the media's attention is going towards Trump and Clinton. The media doesn't want you to think there are any other options. The media allows people to base their decision off of the thought, "at least he's not the other one." When in reality, people only imply that thinking that there are no other choices (which the media leads us to believe is true), despite the upcoming emergence of viable third parties for BOTH sides.
The promotion of third party voting is becoming more common. At the Republican National Convention last week, Ted Cruz seemingly promoted third party voting when he encouraged Americans to "vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution." Also, third party candidates are becoming more popular. The Gary Johnson/William Weld (Libertarian Party) ticket could affect possible realignment of the Republican party. It has been assumed that after the 2016 Election the Libertarian party or an alternative third party could become a possible force in American politics. Even if there are strong showings by third party candidates in the 2016 election, its still unlikely to prevent a Trump or Clinton presidency. However, they could affect positions presidential candidates take in 2020 elections and beyond. For example, FDR accepted points from the Socialist platform in his New Deal. This could very well mean that ideas from today's third party may be implemented by a future third party administration.
From this perspective, third party votes are definitely not a waste. Votes for major party candidates reinforce the ideas that the policies and personal attributes Clinton and Trump represent are good enough for the American public. You can accept these insipid and distasteful ideas or you can demand better by voting third party.
Third parties have been disregarded as "fringe groups" for years, but the fringe is getting rather large. Therefore, major parties try to scare you into believing third party voting is a wasted vote. Many people go so far as to say that third party voting will never be useful unless our current voting system (at the federal level) changes. This statement is typically made assuming that the sole purpose of third party voting is victory for third party candidates. However, the honest truth is our government's voting system probably won't change anytime soon. You can complain about it all you want, but that won't make any major changes happen. The only way change can be made is if you share your voice; voting is simply the easiest way you can be heard!
In the end, it all comes down to what you believe. Do you think a vote for a third party is a vote for the opposition? Do you believe that you should vote with your conscience even knowing your candidate will more than likely lose? Should you vote for a less appealing candidate who doesn't represent the same issues as you, but as a better chance of winning?
The opportunity is in your hands. Find a candidate that supports what you support and give them your vote! Share your voice.