by Rachel Wilson | Staff Writer
You may have heard that a vote for a third party presidential candidate is a waste of a vote, or even a possible reason that Trump could win a second term.
However, the electoral system does not work that way – at least not in the state of Washington.
Many Americans who are dissatisfied with the limiting nature of the two-party system in the United States are turning to third parties. The current third party candidates on the Washington state ballot are Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, Jo Jorgensen of the Libertarian Party, Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and Alyson Kennedy of the Socialist Workers Party.
Of course, a third party will most likely never win. However, if a third party gets just 5% of the vote, that party qualifies for federal funding, making them more competitive and allowing them to pay for events, merchandising, campaign staff and advertising. Considering how, according to NPR, President Donald Trump and Joe Biden combined have spent upwards of $1 billion in television ads alone, third parties need all the funding they can get. If, somehow, a third party candidate can secure 15% of the vote, they qualify for a space on the same debate stage on which the Democratic and Republican candidates appear. Such a result would change the two-party system permanently. Such is the fight of third-aprty voters: the official legitimization of the third party.
Does voting for a third party candidate in the state of Washington risk a Trump re-election? No, because Washington uses a “winner-take-all” system. In essence, the winning presidential ticket of the popular vote receives every electoral vote. Washington has 12 electors, so whoever wins the popular vote will receive all 12.
The state of Washington hasn’t voted for a Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984 – 36 years ago. Washington historically has not gone blue by a slim margin either. According to 270toWin, a nonpartisan election history information tracking site, in 2016, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by a 54% to 38% margin.
However, if you’re from a battleground state, like Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, or Wisconsin, you should vote for whoever you want to win, rather in the interest of the 5 or 15%. The election of 2000 came down to fewer than 600 votes in just one battleground state: Florida. According to Professor Kathy Lee of the Whitworth Political Science Department, people from these states have a unique opportunity. She said, “Those who are from swing states have the opportunity to think both in the national interest, their personal interest, and strategically” when deciding who to vote for.
Will the system actually change? Probably not. Lee says, “It takes amending the Constitution, which is incredibly difficult.” If we might not win at fixing the electoral system, what can we do outside of this election? Lee thinks this choice concerns the policies surrounding voting itself. “I think what efforts need to be made are against laws which suppress people from voting.”
We should know how the systems in which we participate affect us, as well as how we can both fight to change them and participate in them in a way that will create the most positive change. Whatever choice you make, educate yourself on what your candidate will and won’t do for you. Then let’s do what we can to create an America that’s better for us all.