Tag Archives: voting systems

The Lesser of Two Evils

Another post about politics!  Aren’t you excited?  Anyway, I want to talk about something that rustles my jimmies: people who are voting for a third party candidate for president because they believe that they shouldn’t have to “vote for the lesser of two evils”.  Now, they aren’t wrong: one should be able to vote sincerely (i.e., vote for whoever you want).  Voting for an third party candidate because that candidate more accurately represents their views should be the ideal way to vote.  My jimmies should be unrustled by this, and yet, they are quite rustled.   The problem is we don’t live in an ideal world.

Voting third party (or independent) often ignores the current realities of our voting system:  the we way vote for presidents (and pretty much everything else in the US) is stupid.  First Past The Post voting isn’t very conducive for third parties.  If you vote for a third-party candidate you agree with most instead of one of the two major parties candidates you agree with most, you may end up splitting the aforementioned major party candidate’s votes and causing the major party candidate you agree with least to win.  Florida in the 2000 U.S. presidential election is a very good example of this.  If approximately 600 more people voted for Al Gore instead of Ralph Nader, George W. Bush wouldn’t have won that state or the election.

What we need is voting reform in order for people to be able to vote sincerely (replacing First Past The Post with Instant-Runoff Voting, Approval Voting, or some other superior option, for example), and we need to care about this problem during the years where we aren’t electing a president.  Until that happens, you pretty much have to throw your support behind the two people who have the best shot of winning.  And while I’m on the topic of “voting for the lesser of two evils”, I have to mention that I really don’t like that phrase.  You aren’t really voting for the lesser of two evils, you’re voting for the greater of two compromises.  Compromise isn’t a bad thing: better to get some of what you want instead of everything you don’t want.

Also I’m not a fan of the “well, I don’t live a swing state, so…” calculus that some people do. I think voting one way because you expect other people to vote some other way contributed to the Brexit vote turning out the way it did. Then again, if you have absolutely no preference between the two major party candidates (i.e., both are equally good/bad in their own way), then feel free to vote for third party.  But I would argue that most people have some preference when they really think about it (although this year’s presidential election does seem a unique case).  Now I’m just rambling, so I guess need to wrap this us.  My point is this: if you don’t want to be strategic with your voting, then you have to accept the possibility of the major party candidate you want least getting elected.