The 2016 presidential election, like every other presidential election, is dominating the cultural conversation. Every election represents a moment in time when we vote not just for candidates, but also for a set of ideas and convictions. Yet, unlike previous elections many people are not excited about either candidate. In fact, one of the funniest obituaries I have ever seen surfaced during this election when Mary Anne Noland, “faced with the prospect of voting for either Donal Trump or Hillary Clinton, . . . chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God . . .”
Like many evangelicals, I find myself in a position that is quite new and unique in that I cannot support either major party candidate. Others disagree with me on this and that is their right while this choice is mine.
As a strong supporter of the pro-life movement, I cannot in good conscience vote for Hillary Clinton who is, in effect, Planned Parenthood’s candidate. Believing in the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death means that I must vote for a candidate who shares and values human life. On the other side, I cannot in good conscience vote for Donald Trump who has made racist remarks and has boasted about his immoral lifestyle. I believe that leaders must have character and without such, I cannot vote for him. For a great encapsulation of this issue check out this panel where Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, address this question.
So this leaves me with the option of voting for a third party candidate or writing in a candidate on the ballot. And yet a number of times I have heard people object that this is the same as either throwing my vote away or, as one who has traditionally voted Republican, voting in such a way that it gives the same result as a vote for Hillary. In some ways, I can see the argument but it assumes that the situation is a simple binary. If we were only ever given a choice of two candidates, then the choice is a simple binary. However, as citizens, we are given the option of voting for third party candidates or writing in the name of others. This is our legal right and exercising it does not mean that one wastes their vote.
Voting third party or writing in a candidate is an expression of your desire for the election and just because the candidate does not win or have a chance of winning does not mean that the vote is wasted. Third party candidates and write-ins can still receive delegates to the electoral college if they win a state (though this hasn’t happened since 1968). It would only be a wasted vote if the rules prohibited any nominee outside the two major parties from receiving delegates to the electoral college.
This gets to the heart of the issue. Voting is an expression of desire. Anyone who votes in accordance with their desire doesn’t waste their vote because their candidate does not stand a reasonable chance of winning. Voters register support of one candidate and disapproval of all others, regardless of who receives their vote. The question is not whether the candidate has a viable chance of winning, but whether voters are free to express their desire, which is the heart of our democracy.