On Tuesday, voters head to the polls to settle for the lesser of two evils. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you’ve likely wished for some loophole to allow your party of choice to make a last minute switch (Biden/Ryan, anyone?). Alas, you’re left hopelessly heading to fend off whichever candidate you see as more likely to plunge America into irreparable turmoil.
In case your newly-justified euphoria, likely brought on by intensive Facebook campaigning, has led you to forget that past wishful thinking, lets take a brief stroll through recent history.
If you’re a Democrat, let me remind you that The Donald actually led in the polls at one point , and against all odds is making a push to tighten the gap before Tuesday. His candidacy should have been swiftly laughed off after ill-advised primary voting gave the Grand Old Party a less than grand candidate that more than 160 party leaders have since publicly refused to support . For anyone but Hillary, this was a tap-in.
For our Republican readers (hopefully both of you have made it this far) – on the off chance you’re one of the few so blinded by Donald’s brilliant business acumen (mostly a mix of cheap labor and borderline tax-evasion), let us again dwell on the fact that Clinton has been under FBI investigation for the majority of the campaign. Democrats breathed a huge sigh of relief when Trump fluked his way into the candidacy; can you imagine what this race could like if Kasich, Rubio, or even Cruz were running? Again, for anyone but Donald, this was a tap-in.
Still, you’ve since been convinced that it is your duty to defend the Republic by casting your vote against certain downfall. But before you do, I’d like to make one last point.
Your vote doesn’t matter.
Now before you tear me to shreds, let me preface that a bit. If you live in Massachusetts, D.C, Maryland, Vermont, Hawaii, California, New York, Washington, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, Delaware, Rhode Island, or Oregon, the winner-take-all system means Hillary Clinton has all but won every electoral vote in your state. Your vote for Trump will not matter, and if you’re reading this, your vote for Clinton probably won’t matter either.
If you live in Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Alabama, Idaho, North Dakota, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kansas, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Texas, South Carolina, or South Dakota, Donald Trump is taking home all of the electoral votes for your state. Your vote for Clinton will not matter, and your vote for Trump probably won’t either.
These are the states where one candidate has an over 90% chance of winning on Tuesday, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Polls-plus forecast system . In many, that probability nears or exceeds 99%.
In Nebraska and Maine, the only two states that don’t adhere to a winner-take-all system, your vote could matter, depending what district you live in. If you live in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, Arizona, or Iowa, and to some extent, Georgia, Alaska, New Mexico, Minnesota and Utah, feel free to stop reading now. This op-ed isn’t for you. For those voting anywhere else, let me say it again: your vote doesn’t matter.
I know what you’re thinking: “if everyone thought like that, my vote would matter.” True. But I don’t have influence over “everyone,” and as much as I’d like “everyone” to read this, The Harvard Law Record’s modest readership has yet to approach the cusp of “everyone.” Last year, our most-read post had just over 97,000 views. Even if all of those readers return, and all of them listen to me, and all of them happen to be split between the two least populous states in the country, it wouldn’t be enough to change the outcome on Tuesday.
One additional preface, when I say your vote doesn’t matter, I’m talking solely about your Presidential vote. Your ballot is long, and there are key races at the state and national level, not to mention hotly contested ballot initiatives, where your vote could truly count. I wholeheartedly encourage you to go to the polls, and fill out your ballot. All I ask is that you recognize that if you live in one of the aforementioned states, and if you are reading this, your vote for either Clinton or Trump will make zero difference.
And with that in mind, I’d like to make one final pitch to those voters: make that vote count.
Voting for either of the major party candidates is a waste of ink. Voting for a third-party or independent Presidential candidate sends a message. A message that increased polarization is hurting the nation. A message that America deserves better candidates. A message to both major parties to do better. A message to third-parties nationwide to keep trying. If third-party votes surpass or even near an all-time high, they’ll get the message, even if those votes are split between multiple third-party candidates.
You may even prefer Clinton, or Trump, to any of the third-party candidates in the race, but if you live in one of the aforementioned states where your vote won’t make a difference, it really doesn’t matter. A third-party candidate isn’t actually going to win the election. Your vote won’t put anyone in power. All your vote does is send a message. Which is much more than your worthless vote for Clinton or Trump can do.
So, who are the other candidates, and how can you vote for them?
Libertarian Party: Gary Johnson/Bill Weld
Who they are: Perhaps the most well known third-party ticket, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld at one point reached 13% among likely voters in a CNN/ORC poll. While we might all wish Bill Weld was at the top of this ticket, as Gary Johnson has done as much to dispel Question 4 proponents’ argument that recreational marijuana use doesn’t kill brain cells as he has to win over voters , the two are still heading for the highest vote count among third-party and independent candidates.
How to vote for them: Johnson and Weld did enough to get on the ballot in all 50 states and D.C. Just fill in the box.
Green Party: Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka
Who they are: Perennial candidate Jill Stein is a physician, environmentalist, campaign finance reform activist, and member of a musical duo that has been described as “a magical combination,” a description with which I fervently disagree. Baraka is a human rights activist and possible conspiracy theorist. Their poll high was 6% in a McClatchy/Marist poll back in August.
How to vote for them: The Green Party is on the ballot in 45 states, and are qualified for write-in status in another 3. Voters in Nevada, South Dakota, and Oklahoma are unfortunately out of luck – but I already told most of you to stop reading, so it’s your own fault if you’re still here.
Better for America PAC/Independent: Evan McMullin/Mindy Finn
Who they are: Former CIA agent Evan McMullin most recently served as chief policy director for the House Republican Conference. He has also been a volunteer refugee resettlement officer for the UN in Jordan, and did a stint as an investment banker. His running-mate, Mindy Finn, is the founder of Empowered Women, which is described as a bi-partisan organization that “gives a voice to a bold, new generation of American women in civic life.” On the issues, the McMullin/Finn ticket has put forward a fairly prototypical conservative platform. McMullin has recently received a lot of media attention, despite being relatively absent from the campaign trail for the majority of the year. He recently polled at 29% in Utah , and is probably the only third-party or independent candidate who could actually win electoral votes. FiveThirtyEight gives McMullin a 17.6% chance of winning Utah’s 6 electoral votes , which could set in motion one of those crazy scenarios we’ve all dreamed about since Clinton and Trump emerged as the major party candidates. He also could be a scapegoat for Trump if and when he loses on Tuesday – but let’s be honest, Utah’s 6 votes aren’t tipping this election.
How to vote for them: Evan McMullin’s ticket is on the ballot in 11 states, and he has qualified for write-in status in all but 7 of the remaining states: Nevada, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Indiana. If you live in one of those 7 states, writing in McMullin won’t spoil the rest of your ballot – it just might not count. Here’s where it gets a bit complicated. Even though Mindy Finn is McMullin’s running mate, McMullin was a late-comer to the race, and at the time of filing, had his friend Nathan Johnson listed as VP on his ticket. So in order to cast a write-in vote for McMullin, you have to write Evan McMullin/Nathan Johnson on the ballot. Again, if you mess up, the rest of your ballot is fine, your Presidential vote just may not count.
The Best of the Rest
The Constitution Party has personal injury attorney Darrell Castle at the top of their ticket, and Utah’s Scott Bradley as his running mate. The Constitution Party, if you can’t tell, promotes a platform bound to originalism, and has ballot access in 24 states, along with write-in access in most others, with the exception of California, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Massachusetts.
The Ross Perot-founded Reform Party has businessman Rocky De La Fuente running at the top of the ticket with attorney Michael Steinberg. Campaign finance reform and a balanced budget are priorities in their platform. They are on the ballot in 22 states, and could end up getting write-in status in all but 7 states (most of which they have filed lawsuits against).
American Solidarity Party ticket Mike Maturen and Juan Munoz have access to the ballot in Colorado, and have pursued write-in status in 28 other states. BU economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff also has access to a significant number of electoral votes, as he takes his proposed tax, finance, and healthcare reforms to the ballot in Colorado and Louisiana, and is seeking write-in votes in 28 additional states.
If your vote isn’t going to matter, at least make it count. On Election Day, you can choose to justify the shortcomings of a candidate you don’t really believe in, even though all the justifications in the world can’t make your vote matter, or you can choose to send a message with your vote, and push America’s political train wreck back towards the tracks. Just don’t buy into the lie that a third-party vote is a waste. It won’t make a difference as to who wins the election, but it could send a message. And that may be the only way your vote on Tuesday matters at all.