FOXNews.com asked a number of third party activists and candidates: What do you say to those who think voting for a third party is wasting your vote?
Much of what we see in America, what most people feel has been progress and good things, have been brought about by the existence of third parties. And it's been always a battle to try and open up the electoral system.
I think if the Democrats and Republicans saw… think about this, the Democrats voted for the Patriot Act, only one senator voted against it. They voted a resolution of unequivocal support for George Bush in the war with Iraq when Bush gave his 2003 and his 2004 State of Union address they gave him repeated standing ovations. A little less in 2004 and they still gave him 18 standing ovations. We don't agree with George Bush and I think millions and millions of Americans don't agree with George Bush, tens of millions. And the fact that we run, many people will say since we don't have free elections here, we don't have a runoff, even though I want to vote for the Greens, I'm going to vote Democrat.
We understand that. We are not angry at them. We understand what leads them to that. But there are hundreds of thousands of young people, especially in America, our vote is heavily weighed towards younger people, who will say: "You know what, I'm fed up with all of this. If the Democrats can't even come out for free elections, I'm not going to vote for them ever again."
And those people have the right to cast their ballot, that's the great thing about elections. It's a chance for citizens to tell the world, tell the rest of the nation, tell the other citizens, where they stand. And those who decide to vote for a third party are sending a very powerful message. Therefore, it's not a wasted vote at all.
Richard Winger, Editor, Ballot Access News:
There's hardly any more powerful vote, than voting for a minor party. My favorite story concerns the Prohibition Party (search) and how we got prohibition. There are only seven presidential elections in all U.S. history where it's clear that a minor party tipped the ballots as to who won. And in two of them, the Prohibition Party tipped the winner.
In 1884, the Republicans would have won the presidential election and elected James G. Blaine except that Cleveland beat Blaine in New York state by 1,100 votes. The Prohibition Party pulled 25,000 votes in New York state that year and the Prohibition Party nominee was actually a former Republican governor of Kansas. So it was obvious that most of the people that voted Prohibition would have voted Republican if the Prohibition Party hadn't been running.
People were so sure the Prohibition Party cost the Republicans that election that the Prohibition candidate was burned or hanged in effigy all over the country right after the election by angry Republicans. But then it happened again in 1916, Charles Evans Hughes — the Republican presidential candidate — would have won the election except he lost California to Woodrow Wilson (search) by 3,000 votes and there the Prohibition presidential candidate got 32,000 votes in California.
And again, the Prohibition candidate was an ex-Republican governor, this time of Indiana. So again the Republicans lost the election because of the Prohibition Party. So right after that election, Republicans were just sick of losing the presidency because of the Prohibition Party and prohibition issue. So the Republicans in Congress finally voted for the Prohibition Amendment to the Constitution. That amendment had been sitting there since 1875, and Republicans would never support it. They changed their mind, even though it was not in the Republican Party platform, they passed it. The Southern Democrats always went along with it, they wanted prohibition. And that's how we got prohibition, just because of a little minor party that never pulled more than 3 percent of the vote.
Lisa Disch, author, "The Tyranny of the Two Party System":
Well, I ask them if, particularly if they are Democrats, I ask them if they don't feel as if they are wasting a vote when they repeatedly elect candidates who are running towards a center that is increasingly moving right. And how meaningful is your vote when you're not getting the return for it that you want, ideologically, or in terms of principle, or in terms of policy.
Matt Gonzalez, Green Party candidate, San Francisco mayoral race 2002:
Well, voting for a third party, whether or not it's throwing away your vote, I don't think is inherent in the notion of a third party. I think it's inherent in a voting system that's used, that favors a two-party system. People often say to me, "Matt, Ralph Nader cost the election, and Bush won because Al Gore would have got those votes." I say, "OK, if that's true then what have the Democrats done about it in the last four years to fix this problem?"
One thing that they could do to fix it so third parties could emerge is essentially require that before all the votes in any particular state are going to be given to a candidate, that that candidate has to win a majority election. They can't just win a plurality of the votes. That would fix it, and that's something we could do.
I think one reason the Democrats haven't fixed it, although they are very good at complaining about Ralph Nader, is that they have been the benficiaries of the kind of third party spoiling before Nader. Eight years earlier Ross Perot (search) spoiled the election for George [H.W.] Bush. Perot got 19 percent of the vote. Three-quarters of it was coming from George [H.W.] Bush, and Bill Clinton was elected president with 43 percent of the vote. You don't hear Democrats talking about that when they want to bring up the spoiler issue. I'm hopeful that if we can reform elections, people would feel more comfortable getting behind third party candidates
Judge Jim Gray, Libertarian Senate candidate, California:
I am asked frequently, even with people that agree with the libertarian philosophy, why should they throw away their vote and vote for a third party candidate like Judge Jim Gray for U.S. Senate instead of voting for what they call and what we all call –- the lesser of two evils; the Republicans and Democrats. And I tell them the truth, which is that every vote that I get will be seen literally as a vote in favor of keeping the federal government out of marijuana prohibition, so every vote will count. If I make a strong showing, and I'm devoting a year of my life to this on an unpaid leave of absence, we are going to make a strong showing. Then both the Republicans and the Democrats will see this and in future elections as the difference between winning and losing. They are going to want those votes and really the only way they are going to ensure themselves of getting them is to change their drug policy, at least, with regard to marijuana. And then of course if they do that, then we will have won the election.
I say don't throw away your vote on the lesser of two evils for the main parties, have your vote count, and vote for Judge Jim Gray for U.S. Senate, and that really will be an historic vote.
Krist Novoselic, political activist, former bassist for Nirvana:
This is what I have to say to people who believe they are throwing their vote away when they vote for a third party: under this system, they're right! I believe, that as Americans, if we think that's wrong, that we have too many wasted votes, that we are throwing our vote away, that we are making our voting booth sound like a garbage can, if we think that's wrong, then we have to do something about it. We need real electoral reform in the United States, and we need to find consensus on how we are going to do that. It doesn't matter if you're Republican, or Democrat, or an independent, or a Green, or Libertarian, we've got to put our eyes on the prize. And that's moving our democracy forward.
Michael Peroutka, Constitution Party candidate for president 2004:
I get this question a lot. I am asked: "Michael, why would you do this if you don't have a chance to win?" and I say, "I don't believe in chance, I believe in God's providence." And when people say, "Isn't this a wasted vote?" I would respond to them: "What could be more of a wasted vote than to vote for somebody who has demonstrated that they are not going to obey the Constitution?"
When you listen to either President George Bush, in the State of the Union address when he talks about more funding for education, which is not authorized by Article 1 section 8 of the Constitution; when John Kerry (search) or other Democratic candidates in their debates talked about a whole range of programs including national health insurance, more spending on education or things that were not and are not authorized by the United States Constitution, you are listening to people who are telling you that are going to break their oath of office even before they take it.
So I would ask people who ask me that question, "What could be more of a wasted vote than to vote for somebody who is not going to uphold an American view of law and government, who is not going to have fidelity to the Constitution, and who doesn't believe what you believe? If you do believe that we need to return to constitutional government, if you do believe we need to acknowledge God, honor God, defend the family, and restore the republic, if you believe those things, then it's a wasted vote to do anything else than vote for a candidate who does expound upon and believe those particular things. Please, I ask people, do not waste your vote on Democrats and Republicans who have demonstrated their infidelity to the Constitution."
Former Chief Justice Roy Moore, former chief justice of Alabama Supreme Court:
You have to vote with your principle. You have to stand on principle. What's the old song? "You've got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything." If you don't stand on principle what do you stand up on? George Wallace (search) once said that the difference between political parties sometimes is not worth a dime. And sometimes that's true. If we don't stand on the principles that underline the Constitution, you've got nothing left.
Micah Sifry, author, "Spoiling for a Fight" and "The Iraq War Reader":
I think that the only people who throw away their votes are the ones who don't vote. Every vote has an impact on the public debate and whoever gets elected. They all look at the math, they all look and see who voted and what for, what it represents, and how they should respond to it. So the only people who are really wasting their franchise are the ones who stay home on Election Day and don't bother to go vote at all. Then, it's just a question of whether you're comfortable voting for someone you're unhappy with because you want to take a compromise view or do you want to vote for someone who is as close a match to who you are and what your beliefs and values are.
I think people should approach every election on its own merits. There is no one answer to that question. Sometimes it's important to send a protest message because there is no significant difference between the two major candidates, other times, it's important to make sure that one candidate not hold office and you take your chances with the next guy.
John Anderson, independent candidate for president 1980:
I say to them that to the extent that we continue to challenge a system that is electing minority presidents, that is keeping people away from the polls…we are 139th. Freedom House did a poll of all the nations that have democratic forms of government where they have regular elections, we are 139th as far as our overall participation by the eligible electorate. Those could vote, and should vote, and have a voice in the selection of the president of the United States. So I think there's a clear challenge out there, and if people could only see that it could be overcome, the difficulties that I have described that have attached this ‘spoiler' label to every third party or independent candidate could be taken care of. If we looked at the electoral process itself and say: "We have to make a fundamental change, give people the chance to rank order the candidates," we would have a healthier electorate a more participatory electorate and I think a stronger democracy.
Michael Badnarik, Libertarian candidate for president 2004:
To people who ask me about wasting their vote by voting Libertarian, I tell them that the Democrats and Republicans both increase the size of government, both parties increase your level of taxes, and increase the level of government intervention in your life. If you want smaller government and you vote for either the Democrats or the Republicans, then you have wasted your vote.
David Cobb, Green Party candidate for president 2004:
When you vote for something, you don't want you wasting your vote. In this system, third parties have always been profoundly important to social change.
Consider this, the following movements were all championed by third parties: the abolition of slavery, women getting the right to vote, the creation of the Social Security Administration, unemployment insurance, worker's compensation laws, pure food and drug laws, the direct election of U.S. senators. The entire fabric of what all Americans would agree to be a just and compassionate society was literally woven together by so-called third parties before us.