I’m still firming up my voting decision for the presidential election. I won’t share here my decision. But what I will share are some thoughts I’ve had while considering whether to vote third party. I believe that third party voting is an important and valuable choice for our democracy, and I’ll give here some reasons why.
1. Your third party vote can help secure third party funding.
The more that individuals vote third party, the more viable are third parties and their candidates. Under Federal Election Commission rules, when a third party candidate receives at least 5 percent of the vote in an election, they can receive public funds for the following election.
2. Your vote for a third party is a vote for a third party.
I’ve heard Trump supporters argue that a third party vote is really a vote for Biden. I’ve heard Biden supporters say a third party vote is really a vote for Trump. This should be enough to make it clear that a third party vote is, actually, a vote for a third party.
Of course, this argument is sometimes tempered by whether one lives in a swing state where the ultimate win will be determined by a small number of votes. This is certainly something to take into consideration when considering a minor party candidate. Some people may feel more comfortable voting for a third party when the worst available candidate has very little chance of winning. But ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh these considerations and determine how to cast your vote.
3. It’s uncontroversial that our two-party system is frustrating.
Many people want other options, including additional viable parties and ranked choice voting. In terms of the individual voter, however, the most clear objection to this system is to vote outside of it.
4. It’s never “the right time” to vote third party.
In 2012, I heard that it was not the right time to vote third party. In 2016, I heard that it was not the right time to vote third party. In 2020, I’m hearing that it’s not the right time to vote third party. I won’t deny that 2020 does indeed feel very different from both 2016 and 2020. The amount of vitriol coming out of one of the campaigns is astounding, as well as the attacks on family. (Remember when it used to be the lowest form of politicking for a candidate to go after another candidate’s family, regardless of the reason?) But 2024 could be worse. 2028 could be worse. And even if they’re not, I suspect that large numbers of Americans will say, “It’s not the right time.” For Americans focused on the success for a particular major party, it will never be the right time to vote third party.
5. Third party votes can communicate to the major parties that they should consider what some voters to be intolerable.
Even if third party candidates may not win, the major parties may see blocks of voters they want to court in the future. The main way to get a party to consider whether their platform is working is to deprive them of votes that they want. Similarly, when I see a party communicating that they don’t want certain types of candidates (whether they be pro-life or pro-police reform or anti-gun), I see that party communicating they don’t want voters who care about those issues. If a party wants my votes, they know how to get it. And when I see a failure to compromise or broaden perspectives, I see a lack of interest in my vote.
6. Your vote is up to you.
Vote for a major party. Or vote for a third party. Just vote.
More thoughts on the election:
- Why President Trump isn’t getting my pro-life vote
- Anti-racism and my pro-life vote
- Never before have I felt the President’s words could endanger my physical safety
- A Catholic on this election cycle
Chris Damian is a writer, speaker, attorney, and business professional living in the Twin Cities. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and his J.D. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of “I Desired You: Intellectual Journals on Faith and (Homo)sexuality” (volumes I and II). He is also the co-founder of YArespond, a group of Catholic young adults seeking informed and holistic responses to the clergy abuse crisis. In his free time, he enjoys hosting dinner parties and creative writing workshops.