Voting 3rd Party Will *Not* Elect the Greater Evil


Greetings, my sisters, my brothers, & my others —
Today, I’m writing to you about the math of the general election, as well as why that math tells us that the vast majority of you can vote your conscience without being a “spoiler” & electing whoever the greater evil is (which is pretty debatable, by the way). It’s true! This is not my opinion — this is arithmetic

It is my sincerest hope that this article will help to put a decisive end to all of the public vote-shaming & bullying that’s been going around these days — so, if you’ve been bullied or pestered online lately for supporting Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or anyone else, worry not — the math is with you.

And I’ll show you why follow me!

Making Sense of the Insane Math
of the US Presidential Elections

As I’ve explained quite thoroughly in a recent article, a third-grader would almost certainly be able to design a fairer, more efficient elections system than the circus of folly that we have planned for November. But (ironically, perhaps) the same “first-past-the-post,” winner-takes-all electoral process that has strangled all but 2 political parties appears to also be the reason that most of you can vote for 3rd parties in 2016 without having to worry about electing the “greater evil.”

Average margins of victory in the last 5 presidential elections. Bright red = GOP >20%, bright blue = Dem >20%
Average margins of victory in the last 5 presidential elections. Bright red = GOP >20%, bright blue = Dem >20%

Since 100% of a state’s electoral votes go to whoever gets 1st place there’s no point in trying to get get anything less than the most votes, which means there are basically 2 kinds of states — states that are competitive & states that aren’t. In other words, a GOP candidate won’t waste time campaigning in New York or Hawaii, where democrats win with margins greater than 20% — likewise, a democrat wouldn’t waste time on Idaho or Wyoming for the same reasons. In a winner-take-all system, states are either “flippable” — or not.

All of this begs the question –: do non-GOP votes in Wyoming or non-democratic votes in New York even matter?

What the Math Says

The short answer is — no.

If we define “mattering” as “having even the slightest effect on the outcome,” then all votes for the democrat literally don’t matter in states that the republican candidate won & the same goes for GOP votes in states that the democrat won. Since none of those votes have any effect on the outcome, it doesn’t “matter” who those votes are for — whether they were votes for the other major party’s candidate or for a 3rd party or even Cthulu, they have precisely zero effect on the actual outcome.

cthulhu-for-presidentNow, this is about to get pretty ridiculous because the truth is that, even when a candidate wins a state, a lot of the votes for that candidate also don’t matter. Here’s why — let’s say that the GOP wins a state 51-49% against the democrat & the GOP candidate takes 100% of the state’s electoral votes. Now, imagine the same situation, except this time the GOP wins with 75% — in a winner-takes-all system, do they get any more or any less electoral votes? No. Now, imagine they’ve won the same state with 99.9% — does the GOP candidate get even 1 more or 1 less electoral vote? They do not. So — did it “matter” who any of the votes past 51% were for? 

In the United States’ presidential election, not only every vote for candidates that lose but many of the votes for the winner have absolutely no effect on the outcome!

Pretty stupid, huh?

According to Math,
Your Vote Probably Doesn’t Matter

Statistically-speaking, the votes of about 4/5ths of you probably haven’t really mattered in a presidential election since before the year 2000 — that’s because only 10 states have given their electoral votes to more than 1 party for the last 4 elections & about 78% of you live in the 40 states (& DC) that have voted for the same party every time.

all-votes-matter-graph2016 appears to be coming down to even fewer than 10 — in fact, according to‘s state-level polling averages, there are only 8 states where there is a margin between Trump & Clinton smaller than 5%. Actually, many of the most respected elections experts (whatever that means) seem to agree that there are only 7 true swing-states in November (NV, CO, IA, OH, VA, FL, & NH) — but, out of those 7, there may be as few as 2 (FL + OH) whose electoral votes will “make or break” each candidates’ chances!

What This Means About Your Vote

The red & blue states have voted that way for the last 4 elections. The other 10 are the swing-states. [
The red & blue states have voted that way for the last 4 elections. The other 10 are the swing-states. [NOTE: Nebraska is one of the two states that can actually split their vote — part of it has voted GOP with the others, the other part has been “swing-y”]
Now, the 10 states that, after the 1996 presidential election, have sometimes voted for one party or the other are Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, & New Hampshire. If you are part of the 22% of the US citizens that live in one of those states, then you might have to face the moral dilemma of whether to vote for the lesser of two evils or not. If the polls & the pundits are correct, however, those of you in New Mexico, Indiana, & North Carolina could be off the hook, which leaves a mere 7 states or 16.5% of the US population with votes that may actually matter.

But what about the remaining 78-84%? Do their votes matter? I hate to say it, but — no, not really. If you happen to live in one of the 40-43 states (+DC) that are almost certainly not going to swing — well,  you may vote for whoever the hell you’d like to & you can do so without assisting (or hindering or having any effect whatsoever on) any evils!  Think of it this way —

If you live in a state that is “safe” for whoever you think the lesser-evil is, then your vote for the greater good will not affect them — & if you live in a state that is “safe” for whoever the greater evil is, then your vote for the greater good will not affect them, either.

You do not have to deal with the moral dilemma of whether to vote for the lesser-evil or not — you are free to vote for the candidate who actually represents you & your ideas, instead of the candidate who you think will be slightly less awful!


To Sum It All Up

3rd-partiesIt’s true that our elections are rigged to favor a 2-party system & that this system has predictably & systematically stamped out 3rd parties & independents, which repeatedly puts us in the situation where we are forced to decide which is the worst of only 2 likely options — but the twisted “upside” of this whole winner-takes-all, “your vote doesn’t matter” thing is that you are liberated, in a weird sort of way, from having to choose either of those options.

The consequences of these decisions are very real for many of us & so it’s important for us to acknowledge the moral complexity of the issue by not shaming & not being mean to each other over their decisions to vote or to not vote for the lesser evil. At the same time, it is strategically important for US voters to understand that the ultimate result of “lesser-evil-ism” will obviously still be evil, which means that we need to figure out how to fix the fundamental problem

In this author’s humble (yet often stunningly accurate & insightful) opinion, one of the first steps in fixing that problem must be millions of us refusing to co-operate with any evil — until we stop rewarding the politicians who run this corrupt system with our begrudging votes, they’ll continue to use it to suppress our voices. 

In solidarity,
John Laurits
[twitter-follow screen_name=’@JohnLaurits’] 

Other Recent Articles by John Laurits
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Why Sanders-Supporters Are Mad (& Why You Should Be, Too!) (8/22)
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For a more complete list of John’s articles (& other cool stuff),
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¹Well, there are actually two exceptions — in Maine & Nebraska, 1 elector is chosen in each congressional district & 2 electors are chosen by the state-wide popular vote.

*Also, you can follow John on Twitter @JohnLaurits & (if ye feel so inclined) you may support him by buying him a coffee HERE or, to make a monthly donation, you can…

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