Advocates of voting for third-party candidates are often subjected to ridicule because their votes, statistically speaking, don’t count. Supporters of the two party system claim that anybody voting for a third-party candidate is throwing their vote away or is actually voting for one of the two major candidates (Republicans will claim a third-party vote is actually a vote for Obama while Democrats will claim that a third-party vote is actually a vote for Romney). Fortunately I live in Minnesota and can tell you that your presidential vote won’t count unless you vote for Obama. To understand this one must look at the electoral college system. Many people don’t realize that presidential elections aren’t determined by popular vote, they’re determined by the electoral college system:
When U.S. citizens vote for president and vice President every election cycle, ballots show the names of the presidential and vice presidential candidates, although they are actually electing a slate of “electors” that represent them in each state. The electors from every state combine to form the Electoral College.
Each state is allocated a number of electors equal to the number of its U.S. Senators (always two) plus the number of its U.S. House representatives (which may change each decade according to the size of each state’s population as determined in the census).
When you cast a vote for president you’re not actually casting a vote for that candidate, you’re casting a vote for a group of presidential electors. These electors are the people who actually vote for the president. Effectively you cast a vote for a group of “representatives” who actually get to vote for the president. Now we must look at how electors are selected:
Each political party with a candidate on the ballot designates its own set of electors for each state, matching the number of electors they appoint with the number of electoral votes allotted to the state. This usually occurs at state party conventions. Electors are typically strong and loyal supporters of their political party, but can never be a U.S. Senator or Representative. Electors are also generally free agents, as only 29 states require electors to vote as they have pledged, and many constitutional scholars believe those requirements would not stand in a court challenge.
After the election, by statutes in 48 states and the District of Columbia, the party that wins the most votes in that state appoints all of the electors for that state. This is known as a “winner-take-all” or “unit rule” allocation of electors, which became the norm across the nation by the 1830′s. Currently, the only exceptions to the unit rule are in Maine and Nebraska that allocate their electors by congressional district, plus two at-large electors awarded to the candidate who wins the states’ popular votes.
Minnesota has 10 electoral votes (we have eight House representaties and two Senators) so each political party gets to elect 10 presidential electors. With the exception of two states, presidential electors are selected on a “winner-takes-all” basis. Minnesota is not one of those two states:
6. Can a voter split votes between presidential elector candidates of different political parties?
A vote can only be cast for the entire slate of electors by voting for the presidential and vice-presidential ticket that the candidates for elector are pledged to support.
7. Are the presidential elector candidates required to receive a majority of the votes cast (50%) in Minnesota?
The presidential electors pledged to support the presidential and vice-presidential ticket that receives the MOST votes in MINNESOTA are certified as the official presidential electors for Minnesota. The winning slate of electors is only required to receive more votes in Minnesota than any other slate of electors. A majority (50% plus one vote) is not required for an elector to be elected.
Whichever party gets the majority of votes in Minnesota gets to select all of the presidential electors. If the Democratic Party gets 30% of the votes, the Republican Party gets 29% of the votes, the Libertarian Party gets 21% of the votes, and the Green Party gets 20% of the votes the Democratic Party gets to select all of the electors. If you don’t vote for the majority presidential candidate in Minnesota your vote literally doesn’t count.
Let’s take a look at Minnesota’s electoral college history. Since 1932 the Democratic Party has won all but three presidential elections in Minnesota. The last presidential election won by the Republicans in Minnesota was in 1972. That means since 1972 no vote for a Republican president has counted in the state of Minnesota. Furthermore Obama is polling ahead of Romney in this state so history is looking to repeat itself.
Claiming that any presidential vote cast for a third-party is being thrown away in Minnesota is effectively true. Likewise claiming any presidential vote cast for the Republican Party is being thrown away in Minnesota is also effectively true. Unless you’re planning to vote for Obama in this election your vote won’t matter in the state of 10,000 lakes.
What does all of this mean? For those of your on the fence about voting for a third-party candidate it means you can safely do so without worrying about whether or not your vote may lead to the “greater” of two evils becoming president. If you’re a libertarian that is worried about Obama getting reelected if you vote for Gary Johnson put your worries to rest. The same goes for those of you considering voting for the Green Party, Constitution Party, or any other political party. Obama is all but guaranteed to win all 10 electoral votes in Minnesota regardless of how you vote. Vote your conscious because, unless you’re voting for Obama, your vote won’t have any affect on the presidential race.
Don’t let the two major parties scare you into voting for one of their candidates. I know many advocates of gun rights are trying to convince people to vote for Romney because they believe he will nominate more gun friendly Supreme Court judges. That issue doesn’t concern you if you live in Minnesota because you don’t get a say in this election unless you support Obama. Vote for who you want to win. Since your vote is going to be thrown away you might as well have a clear conscious after you’re done casting a ballot.