Wednesday, November 02, 2016

What is a wasted vote?

The short answer: No vote is wasted, so long as you cast it for someone you believe in.

However, here's a longer answer. I wrote what follows for a Massachusetts audience, but I hope it resonates with some of you in other states or other countries (although some of the specifics certainly won't matter much to you and they might even be wholly out of touch with your region. I trust your discernment and I expect you'll be able to extrapolate as needed.)

I submitted it to my editor at the Boston Herald, but she passed on it. I understand that decision. I gave her a couple of pieces at about the same time. She opted to take the one devoid of politics and with a warm nostalgic feel (which will be published this Sunday, by the way, and I'll give a link to that when it goes in print, of course.) Meanwhile, I've been promising you something fresh in this space, so...

Anyway, here it is and I hope you get some enjoyment from it.  I expect there may be a rebuttal or two, but please keep in mind the audience for which it was intended. Your situation may be wholly different and I wouldn't want you to get into an argument about Massachusetts politics by mistake. That's a beast nobody who doesn't live here should have to battle without due miserable cause.

Finally, two notes:

1 - The footnotes were for my editor's convenience, but I've left them in just in case you want to explore.

2 - You'll no doubt notice that "wasted" is in quotation marks throughout the piece. That's because I truly believe what I said in the "short answer" at the top of this. However, if you want to argue against that, go for it and have fun. I won't answer you because I learned long ago that it's impossible to win an argument against a fool.

And on that cheery note, here's my usual illiterate sign-off now because why not?

Soon, with more better stuffing of the ballot box.  

Wasted votes plentiful in Massachusetts, but not for Johnson (590 words)

I’ve been told by many well-meaning people that my vote for Gary Johnson is a “wasted” vote. There are many “wasted” votes here in Massachusetts, but none of them are for Gary Johnson.

Hillary Clinton is going to win this state. You know it, I know it, anyone with a modicum of political sense knows it. The latest polling has her lead at 32 points.[1] Remember Donald Trump saying he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York and not lose any votes?[2] Hillary Clinton could strip naked, climb up the side of the State House while carrying an AK-47, stand atop the golden dome and rain bullets down on the Boston Common, and still not lose Massachusetts. This state, in gambling terms, is a mortal lock.[3]

Considering the probable high voter turnout, Clinton will likely win this state by a million votes, give or take a hundred thousand.

As Al Gore will gladly remind you, the presidential race is not decided by cumulative popular vote. The electoral votes are what count. And those are awarded, state-by-state, on a winner-take-all basis (Maine and Nebraska are the only exceptions.)[4] Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in Massachusetts is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if she wins by one vote or one million.

Let’s say she wins by over a million votes. All votes above Trump’s total, save the one that puts her over the top, are “wasted”. And every vote for Donald Trump – all of them, even if he gets a total of a million or more – will also be “wasted”. None of those votes, two million or so, will matter in the electoral college tally.

Now, by that logic, you could just as easily say that all votes for Johnson are “wasted”, too, but there are other factors in play. If Johnson garners three percent of the vote in Massachusetts, that will confer party status, in the eyes of the Commonwealth, on the Libertarians.[5] Also, if Johnson gains at least five percent of the vote nationwide – raw total, not electoral – the Libertarian Party will be granted certain rights it currently does not enjoy, such as eligibility for general election matching funds.[6] The only ones who get that gift now are the Republicans and Democrats. The Libertarians would also be subject to less-onerous ballot access requirements in many states. Since Johnson is the only candidate, other than Clinton or Trump, to appear on all 50 state ballots, he is the only one with a realistic chance of attaining that five percent threshold.

So, as you can see, a vote for Johnson is not cast aside just because he doesn’t win the Massachusetts electoral votes. It remains important, nationwide, and is the only vote to carry that important distinction. A vote for Johnson is not “wasted”. It is even less “wasted” than most Massachusetts votes for either Clinton or Trump.


If you truly believe, in your heart of hearts, that either Trump or Clinton is the best person for the job, then by all means vote for one of them. But if you’re thinking of doing so only because you’re choosing between the lesser of two (outstanding) evils, you might wish to reconsider. Your vote for Johnson is not “wasted”. As a matter of fact, it could make a world of difference in future elections, bringing another voice to the fore and, at the very least, likely spurring the other two parties into giving us better candidates than we received in this execrable excuse for an election.



(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

I am happy to report that my vote... yes, I already voted ...was not wasted.

Now I need to figure out how to get the numbnuts on the phone banks to quit calling me.

Pete said...

Sully, You could not be more correct. We shouldn't vote for anyone other than the person that our little heart desires to support. I have voted for someone not running, someone without a snowball's chance to win, someone likely to lose and a couple of winners. More parties, more choices. Its just like draft beer or ice cream. More choices more smiles!! Pete Mittell

Suldog said...

(not MY uncle) Skip - Here's hoping they stop calling you!

Pete - Thank you. We've had some debates and you're always a reasonable person to discuss with, even if we're sometimes on opposite sides.

messymimi said...

You are right, no vote is wasted. Too many people have put forth too much effort to make it possible for me to cast a ballot for me to not do so, and do it for the candidate i think is the best, not just the most likely to win.

Craig said...

Yup. Part of what I'm hoping to accomplish with my vote is to gain some manner of standing for the American Solidarity Party (5% is probably WAY too much to hope for, but at least just draw some sunshine their way. . .)

I've become pretty totally disillusioned with the two-party system as presently constituted. I figure, if we can just open up the viable options, it's all to the good. (And does anyone else think that the Republicans are starting to look like the Whig Party, ca. 1850, which brought the Republican Party into being in the first place?)

Trump, Hillary, it doesn't matter; I figure whichever of them wins, it will be some manner of catastrophe for the country, and, on some level (hopefully, not a very large one), for me personally, and those I care about. So, try to bring what good I can out of a really, really bad situation. . .

Shoshanah said...

I didn't know that, about the five percent threshold. It would be nice to have more than two "real" parties. I really like Clinton, though, and I also live in a purple state, so my choice is clear. I wanted to comment and tell you how much I appreciate your levelheaded reasoning. It's a nice reprieve from the general insanity.

Suldog said...

Mimi - Yes, too much blood was shed - by others, on my behalf - for me to ever take voting lightly.

Craig - I wish your candidate(s) the best of luck. As Pete said - and I agree - the more parties, the better.

Shoshanah - Thank you for the nice compliment. If you truly like Clinton, then that's who you should vote for. That's all I'd ever ask of anyone, a vote for the person they truly believe in. There are loads of people who have told me they'd vote for Johnson if they thought he had a chance. Those are the people who make me angriest. If they voted for him, he might have a chance (sigh).

Tabor said...

Votes are not wasted if you believe in the candidate and are willing to accept that might only influence the election in the sense that your worst nightmare might come true. It is making a statement but not accomplishing much.