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Do 3rd party votes count? Of course they do!

Green Party Candidate, Jill Stein

This post was prompted by a question that bellecat left in the last thread:

I’ve seriously thinking for months to give my vote to the Green Party-Jill Stein; after all I’m an environmentalist and for clean energy.
But I keep reading that her votes -since there’s not chance of winning, will go automatically to Obama. It’s that true? What are your thoughts?

 

Justice Party Candidate, Rocky Anderson

There may be some confusion here about the concept of “winner take all” but I’ll get to that in a moment.

I’m not sure who is spreading this misinformation but you can never rule out motivated party operatives (either party) who are paid to write it.

There’s a very good reason why this is misinformation and obviously untrue.  If it were true that a major party could just reassign third party votes to its nominee, then Al Gore would have won the presidency in 2000.  Want a more recent example?  Jon Corzine lost to Chris Christie in 2009 because some of us New Jerseyans voted for Chris Daggett, an independent candidate.  Daggett collected about 5% of the votes (and I’m convinced that those votes came from Democrats, not Republicans).  Nevertheless, Daggett’s votes counted and Christie won.  If they had not, Corzine would have been losing New Jersey’s money today, not MF Global’s.

If the party is recognized by your state and has a ballot position for its candidate, the votes that candidate gets are going to count.  It might be a different story if you are writing in a name of a politician who is from the same party as the party’s official nominee.  We noted in 2008 that this happens in some states.  That’s why Joe Lieberman ran as an Independent Democrat in 2006.  It’s because he couldn’t run against his party’s official nominee on the same party ticket.  If you were planning to write in Hillary’s name for president, that vote might be converted to a vote for the party’s official nominee in some places. So, we recommended that voters check their local and state laws to see what would happen in that case.

Now, is it possible that a third party candidate like Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson can win?  Anything is possible but it’s not probable.  Some people will think they’re throwing their votes away and if they want to be chicken shit cowards, there’s nothing you can do to stop them from going along with the crowd, voting for one of the major party candidates and they whining afterwards that there’s never any choice.  But there are good reasons why a third party vote can still make a difference and why more Americans should vote third party instead of acting like two year olds who can’t defer their desire for instant gratification.

1.) The more votes a third party gets, the greater the chances that it will be taken seriously some day in the future. This is what happened to Canada’s New Democratic Party. It came out of virtually nowhere a couple of years ago to displace the Liberals from the second spot in opposition to the Conservatives.  And the Pirate party has made a strong showing in Germany, surprising even the Pirates themselves.  So, the major parties might be dominant now but you never know what’s going to happen a couple of years from now.

2.) Once a third party is firmly established, there’s an opportunity for some of them to run for downticket offices.  The introduction of a third party of significant critical mass in Congress may help break our gridlocked government.  The parties would have to realign themselves somewhat and make deals with other party alternatives.  This is what has happened internally with the Republican party with the introduction of the Tea Party candidates.  The Republican party has found itself having to negotiate and pander to them.  What we need is a similar voting block to the left of the Democrats.  And when I say “left”, I don’t mean commie left or treehugger left.  It just has to be noticeably left of the Democrats as they are now, which is essentially a moderately conservative party.

3.) You CAN influence the current election even if your third party candidate doesn’t win.  Like I pointed out before, Al Gore and Jon Corzine both lost support when their voters turned to third parties.  If there are enough voters choosing this option, the losing party might start taking a cold hard look at what it will take to win those voters back.  Just be sure you send the right message.  If you desert the Democrats out of anger and go to the Republican side or a right of center candidate, the party analysts are going to think you want more conservative politics.  They won’t see it as righteous indignation.  You don’t have to vote for your ideological enemies in order to punish the party you align yourself with most closely.  Vote as close as you can to your ideological allies and your party will eventually buy a clue.

Now, let’s say you vote third party and the Democrat still wins the popular vote in your state.  In most states of the union, the rule to convert the popular vote to the electoral college vote is “winner take all”.  So, if Obama won most of the popular votes in your state, he would take all of the electoral college representatives.  But he wouldn’t be singling out third party votes, he’d be taking the Republican voters’ votes as well.  It must suck to be a Republican in California or New York but that’s how it works.

But what if you live in a swing state or what if the polls remain very close all the way to election day?  If you live in a state that has a third party on the ballot, your vote could count quite a bit.  Because if you siphon away enough popular votes from one of the candidates, you could throw all of the electoral college votes to his opponent.  Some people call this a spoiler.  I think it depends on what your goal is.  I’m not sure that Nader had a legitimate case in 2000 but anyone who doesn’t like the way the Democrats have gone in the past two election cycles should feel free to express their displeasure.  If the Democrats want to avoid this scenario, they had better get on the stick and start courting the potential defectors toot sweet.  I’d be worried if I were the Democrats right now.  It’s not the Republican or independent voters they have to fear.  It is their own base that might defect from them that should be a major concern.

Let your conscience be your guide.  At this point, I don’t think it matters too much who occupies the White House.  It might be an issue if one of the Supreme Court justices retires or dies but not because of Roe v Wade. It’s because the president might appoint a more Wall Street/deregulation friendly justice and at this point, either president could do that.  I’m in favor of electing more Democrats to Congress because that might be helpful.  Then again, the Democratic party tends to suck all of the flavor out of the downticket candidates so, do the best you can.

But I think whoever is telling us that third party votes will be handed over to Obama is conflating the popular vote with the electoral college vote.  Your vote WILL count. Vote strategically.

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35 Responses

  1. A vote for a third party candidate is as good as not voting in the selection, imho. I usually skip voting for offices I know nothing about or for propositions that I’m neutral. I let other more informed voters decide. When it comes to the presidency, I wouldn’t vote third party.

    It’s the independent that the candidates care about. The Democrats more than the Republicans ignore their base.

    • Au contraire. I think Biden’s performance last night demonstrates very well that they are starting to get concerned with defections.

      As I said before, if you don’t vote strategically with the goal of having a choice down the road, you can’t complain about not having any choices. In order to have choices, you need to choose to do something.

      But I suspect you just lean conservative anyway and so if your Democrat isn’t to your liking, you’ll vote Republican without much arm twisting. So this post is kinda wasted on you.

      • I never considered myself conservative. I’ve never voted conservative (candidates or ballot measures), and that’s a better indicator of what I believe in. But I don’t mind being considered a conservative now. I will use my vote to create change.

  2. Btw, I disagree with you that both candidates are similar and it doesn’t make a difference. I think that, like Hillary said, the past is your best indicator of what the candidate will do. Now you know what Obama is like, take a good look at what Romney did his whole life.

    A successful man will be successful. It’s extremely rare that a person turns his life around and becomes a success after failing their whole life. Obama was never a success, just like W.

    • It depends on what your definition of success is. I think that is a moral question that Americans need to think about very carefully. Is it better to live like Midas or Frodo Baggins? I’d take Frodo Baggins any day.
      By the way, what EXACTLY has Romney done that deserves all this praise?? Has he discovered a cure for cancer like some of my colleagues have? Has he found a clean green energy solution to replace fossil fuels? Has he helped ordinary people in some tangible way? Neither candidate has, in my humble opinion. But I am no more likely to think Romney is a swell guy because he turned generational wealth into more generational wealth than I am to think that Obama did anything positive for the people of Chicago who lived in the apartments of the slum lords he used to represent.

      Lincoln wasn’t particularly successful in terms of material goods and yet he was one of our greatest presidents. I don’t think wealth meant all that much to him.

      Conversely, FDR was a wealthy man who found compassion after he suffered in his own life.

      Wealth should not be a pre-requisite for leadership nor a positive character trait. If it is, we might as well elect Sheldon Adelson or that hedge fund guy Cooperman. If wealth is perceived as good and successful, them presumably more wealth is more good and successful. The recent behavior of the wealthy would seem to negate that idea.

    • Read the bio of Herbert Hoover. Who made his fortune out of a seriously broken background. A good man who failed as president.

      And Mitt is not a good man, Ann Romney’s endorsement notwithstanding.

  3. It’s simple, really. The more of us who vote third party, the greater the chance that the Dems might take notice. Vote straight-party Dem and guaranteed the Dems will take you for granted and nothing will change.

    BTW, Romney became “successful” by destroying companies (and their workers). I do not consider that success. That’s gaming the system. Obama did nothing before he became President and has harmed this country tremendously during his tenure, so that’s not success either. I consider both of them to be abysmal failures.

  4. I believe it matter a great deal which party sits in the White House. So, I’m using my vote to vote against Romney, because he is the bigger evil.

    • Well, we don’t see it that way. We think that Obama is the more effective evil because he makes bad things acceptable because he is technically a Democrat.
      You can do what you like but we’re not taken in by that Bigger Evil shtick anymore.

    • Is there any bigger evil than Obama’s assuming the power to kill U.S. citizens, including you if you are a citizen, anytime anyplace? Killing thousands of innocents by the use of drones? Retroactive immunity for blatantly illegal tapping of phones and email? Bailing out the crooked banksters with no accountability whatsoever? Discounting the primary votes of millions of Democrats? And, coming to a theater near you, destroying Social Security and Medicare for anyone under the age of 55? Please, tell me.

  5. Another point is that it’s not always about strategy.

    It could be in Bush v. Gore, where one candidate laughed at people on death row and the other was a capable policy wonk.

    But when one candidate is a war criminal who’s done pretty much the exact opposite of everything he campaigned on, and the other is a would-be war criminal, for me, I can’t vote for either one without participating in what they’re doing. So I’m a refusenik. It’s not about strategy.

    I know it means my candidate will lose. So what? Participating in your own destruction is worse than losing.

  6. It doesn’t make any sense to say that a vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Obama?? The opposite is more likely to be conjectured… that a vote for Jill Stein, coming from a Liberal base, is like a vote for Mitt Romney. Believe me, Romney voters are not attracted to Stein. Hence, she is not threat to him.

    Never let anyone tell you that your vite doesn’t count!

    • But they may be attracted to Gary Johnson. In most states the Presidency is technically a four-way race (though the media rarely acknowledges this). Johnson and Stein may not have the critical mass that Romney and Obama have, but collectively they could make this race more interesting.

    • You are wrong on that. If I thought Stein had two things: the background and the following of at least 10% I would vote for her. I believe she has neither. If I thought Johnson had at least 10% following, I would also vote for him. Why 10%? Because any vote that’s lower than that will not carry any message to the two parties.

      It’s a good thing that each of us own our vote and will on Election Day let the politicians hear our message. Most of all, I hope the Democratic Party goes into the wilderness and think about why they were kicked out of Washington

  7. One important correction on history: Al Gore DID win the election in 2000 – let’s not buy THEIR narrative. Even Kerry won in 2004 – only the theft was better executed and he rolled over faster. That being said, I agree with everything else. helping an emerging party get some power is a worthy cause that may – at some point get us out of the 2 party kabuki theater. Voting for Jill Stein in November!

    • You are correct! However, if we were to believe the misinformation about where the votes go, there wouldn’t have been any need for the Supreme Court to step in. The result would have been obvious.

      • They would have adjusted for that potential reality too – that result was as predetermined as Obama 2008. In 2000, 6 million votes nationwide were not counted. It wasn’t even close!

  8. Good reminder there. A forensic autopsy of the Florida election revealed that Gore did indeed win Florida despite everything . . . after the fact. It is unfortunate that Gore was too gentelmanly and not driven enough to keep dragging and obstructing . . . including not
    taking the opportunity handed us all by the CBC Representatives asking the Senate to reject the Florida Electoral College Delegation and its mis-assigned votes.

    Yet another reason to vote third party in a situation like this: people who vote third party will find eachother and draw inspiration and boosted morale from knowledge of eachothers’ presence and existence.

    • And it wasn’t just Florida. Tennessee and a number of states in the South were picked – a bit more cleanly than Florida. In 2004 too. Comparing Gore to Kerry, I have to appreciate at least a beginning of a fight in Gore. But true, Ds eventually always capitulate.

  9. My last point. If the Democratic Party had not been able to sew up the Black vote by using the race card, the party would have never pushed Obama. But the greatest mistake was that most of the 18 million voters that voted for Hillary, went along and voted for Obama in the general election. I have no illusion that McCain would have been a terrible president, but the message that was sent to the Democratic Party in 2008 was that there would be no consequences for the evil machiavellian power grabbing of the primary. Those 18 million votes should have en masse rejected the Democratic Party candidate in 2008 so that we could get a good candidate in 2012.

    It wasn’t done in 2008, maybe it will happen in 2012.

    • Yes, I will be voting third party too.
      I heard someone make the
      point that quite possibly a President McCain
      would have been much harder on the banks than Obummer.
      This was because McCain was angry at the banks because he felt they used him in the S&L scandals of the late 80’s and he would not want that to happen again.

      • I did a protest vote but even to the last second in that voting booth didn’t know if that was the best thing to do. But I had thought that if the Democrats recaptured both houses of Congress, they might have been far less accommodating to a Republican president. And McCain, in return, might have been a tougher president on Wall Street. I had heard from a colleague who had friends connected to Wall Street that they were afraid that a Republican president would bring in a full scale depression and that would screw up their business model. They were looking to elect a more reasonable Democrat. Note that this conversation took place well before the collapse. I only remembered this conversation after September happened. But it made a lot of sense given what we witnessed during the primaries.

  10. I’ll be voting Third Party and if Obama loses to Willard too bad.

  11. I agree with Riverdaughter that liberals casting votes for Romney will cause Democrats to shift even more to the right. I think it will also cause them to congratulate themselves on having shoved Obama down out throats in 2008. I’d love to cast a vote for Obama as a write-in on the Republican ticket, just to be snarky, since he’s going to win Illinois, anyway, but supporting a liberal third party candidate seems like a better long-term strategy (though less fun.)

  12. RD:
    BRAVA!
    Thank you for giving Green Party-Jill Stein some needed exposure in our “democrats in exile” blog-sphere; and thank you for opening a dialogue about the Third Party significance in a grid-lock rot we have in the 2 party system.
    But for us women, to take a close look at a woman presidential candidate -that actually has good platform agenda such as the “employment benefits” a program to put people to work, instead of unemployment benefits, just name one; other, to put a cap on Defense spending by bringing back to 2000 budget. Must needed.
    A very valid alternative for women voting for a woman.

  13. Dr Jill Stein -2012!!

  14. ” If you desert the Democrats out of anger and go to the Republican side or a right of center candidate, the party analysts are going to think you want more conservative politics. [….] Vote as close as you can to your ideological allies and your party will eventually buy a clue.”

    This!

    • In my case, it won’t be Jill Stein and the Greens.
      PLUS, if you didn’t protest vote in 2008, then you were sending a signal to the Democrats that they can do whatever they want with the election system and you won’t put up a fight.
      I don’t like handing the country over to a bunch of class action motivated special interest groups is any better than handing over to either major party so Ralph Nader or any Green party candidate are not my natural allies.
      This year, the closest I can get is the Justice Party and Rocky Anderson. Since Anderson is on the ballot in NJ, this is an easy choice for me.

      • I am en environmentalist and for clean energy as an ASAP change for our contemporary societies; but I was never an advocate for Nader and the greens per say.
        Yet, Jill Stein background on health and the environment issues, along with more realistic approach to work, the economy and budget deficit made me take a closer look for a valid alternative and hopeful for a better and more focus and realistic Green Party.

        Good health is wealth and healthy environments foster healthy individuals and societies.
        I see that the Wall-E human society is already here.

      • Of course I protest-voted in 2008!

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