Monday, November 01, 2004

The Wasted Vote Syndrome

Too often, I have been told by people that they really do agree with most of what the average Libertarian candidate says, but they just can't bring themselves to vote Libertarian because that candidate has no chance of winning, making it a wasted vote.

If every person who has ever told me that actually voted Libertarian, there would be some radically different outcomes, and you wouldn't see it as a wasted vote. You would wish you had done it sooner.

If you do largely agree with the LP, but are picking Bush or Kerry, Daniels or Kernan, or any Democrat or Republican instead of voting Libertarian because who you are picking is not his opponent, you will be sorely disappointed if your fall-back choice does win. Small-government voters who vote Bush instead of Badnarik will get bigger government anyway. Anti-war voters who vote Kerry will get war anyway. Etc.

Worse, you will have sent the message to the parties that they don't have to change a thing. They have your support, and the proof is your vote. In fact, the only way to tell them that they need to change is to vote Libertarian. In fact, the only vote that is truly wasted is one cast for a candidate you can only begrudgingly support.

Indiana's gubernatorial race is exciting for the object lesson that will come of it. Democratic incumbent Joe Kernan has stated his unwavering support for the construction of a new section of I-69, through new terrain, including wetlands. There are many voters who hold the environment as their number one issue, and they normally vote Democrat. These voters are deeply disappointed by Kernan's position. Some will waste their vote, and support Kernan anyway. Those who are disgusted enough by Kernan will vote for Libertarian candidate Kenn Gividen, the only candidate to oppose the new highway. The message will be sent to Kernan and the Democrats that environmental voters must not be ignored. When Kernan loses by 1-2%, and he sees that he lost 3% to Gividen, he and his party will get it. No longer will Democratic candidates for Indiana governor ignore the environment.

One thing to remember is that no matter if you are a Democrat, a Republican, or a Libertarian, you probably do not agree 100% with your candidates. Libertarians generally agree on principle, but that's no wonder, as there is a libertarian philosophy behind the Libertarian Party. Still, I will scratch vote rather than go straight ticket Libertarian. The argument for scratch voting is more compelling for liberals and conservatives, because the choices are less clear due to the great variety throughout the major parties. For instance, Democratic Senator Evan Bayh from Indiana is easily more conservative than Ohio's Republican Governor Bob Taft. Indiana Democrats can vote for Kerry and Bayh, but why would they? Heck- Bayh advertises how much he voted with the President! Actually, it's pretty easy to waste your vote going straight ticket Democrat or Republican.

Win or lose, voting isn't about picking a winner, although you hope your views are in the majority. Voting is about exercising your conscience.

To all of the people who voted for Al Gore in 2000? Was your vote wasted? You know that your candidate didn't win, so, would your vote have been better placed if it had been cast for Bush? Didn't think so. No, your conscience was with Gore. You made the right choice, even if it did end in defeat.

Vote your conscience. Let the results fall as they may.

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