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Students debate the validity of voting for third-party candidates

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I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published October 25, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

Voting for third-party candidates can send a message to the two major political parties, but that message could have negative consequences.

“I think of ‘protest voting’ or ‘sincere voting’ as voting for the candidate that you think should win the election whether or not they’re a major-party candidate,” said Ashley Moraguez, an assistant professor of political science at UNC Asheville. “If enough people do it, I think it could cause the major parties to adopt new issues or shift their platform. So I think there is an effective argument to be made for protest voting or sincere voting.”

Moraguez said if this choice is carried out in significant numbers, it could result in an undesirable outcome for those voters.

“But you have to recognize that if you do it, because we have such a strong bias toward the two-party system in the United States, that it may be at the cost of you not getting the person that you like the most elected into office,” Moraguez said. “It’s a very personal choice and you have to gauge the risk. A lot of people think one vote doesn’t matter, but if everyone has the same calculus as you, it could matter.”

Moraguez said the U.S. favors a two-party system because of Duverger’s law. The law states when there is an electoral system with single-member districts, where each voting district has one representative and when there is plurality, or majority rules, then the representative with the most votes wins.

“That’s why we don’t have multiple parties in the United States like Europe does, because they have a different electoral system,” Moraguez said. “So for that reason, I tend to think that in the general election, it does make more sense to vote for one of the two major-party candidates. It’s very unlikely a third-party candidate will win because of how our electoral system is set up.”

“That being said, I do think that voting sincerely could send a signal to the parties and isn’t a wasted vote,” Moraguez said. “We still see a lot of Bernie supporters who are saying they may not turn out to vote, which in my opinion is the incorrect way, only because the party will only receive your signal if you vote.”

Caitlin Poteet, a junior accounting student from Candler, agrees with Moraguez.

“I think this notion of a wasted vote is absurd, there is no such thing as a wasted vote and I think they’re ludicrous for not voting,” Poteet said. “If you don’t like Hillary or Trump, by all means vote third-party, but at least vote. Exercise your right.”

Poteet said voters require balanced and diverse information and perspectives in order to make the best decisions.

“I would really encourage people of voting age to vote, but also inform themselves with both left- and right-wing publications so that you’re informed across the board,” Poteet said. “I feel like so many voters are not informed and they just say, ‘Well, my dad is a Democrat and my mom is a Democrat, so I’m a Democrat’ and vice versa.”

“This notion of voting party lines regardless of whether you disagree is not the way to go,” Poteet said. “You need to have some kind of logical reason for voting for someone.”

Gideon Honeycutt, a junior economics student, said he does not intend to vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

“If I were forced to choose, I would probably choose Trump, but I would be really pissed off about it,” Honeycutt said. “If I were going to cast a ballot based on my conscience and not violating my conscience, I would probably write in Mitt Romney or John Kasich.”

Honeycutt said he sympathizes with voters choosing one of the two presidential candidates even if they do not fully support the candidate.

“I’m OK with people casting a protest vote. I think you have to do what your conscience tells you to,” Honeycutt said. “I understand why some people would vote for a candidate even if they don’t like them, just to keep the other one out, but my conscience hasn’t led me that way.”

Honeycutt said he would rather have vice presidential candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence as the presidential nominees.

“I’m more moderate in that I could vote for either of the vice presidential candidates. I like them both quite a bit,” Honeycutt said. “I think they both have the character and integrity that we’re lacking on the top ends of the ticket.”

Fiona Popp, a junior mechatronics and engineering student, said voters can criticize the two major-party presidential candidates, but they need to realize one of the two will be the next president.

“It comes down to choosing who you think would be better,” Popp said. “I think if you don’t vote then you have no right to complain about who ends up being elected. But don’t throw away your vote. Don’t go into the polls and just randomly vote.”

Moraguez said she hopes everyone votes because exercising that right remains paramount.

“My students make fun of me for this, but I’ll just say that I don’t care who people vote for. I think they should just go out and vote,” Moraguez said. “That’s kind of my big spiel until Nov. 8, and I think they’re getting sick of me saying it, but it’s important. Early voting starts on Oct. 20 and you can do it on campus.”

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