|This donut's just a metaphor, right?|
Think of the same scenario, but you have the option to NOT vote. Now there are still 10 votes for bagels and 10 for donuts, but you're not voting. Or, if you prefer, you're "voting" for nothing. You aren't taking a vote away from donuts or bagels. You're just not giving a vote to either.
Now think of this scenario with a third option AND the option to not vote. Omelets, maybe (yeah, getting fancy up in here!). Hey, omelets sound good! So you vote for omelets. Now there are 10 votes each for bagels and donuts and a single vote for omelets. You weren't going to vote to begin with, so no votes are being taken away from either the donuts or the bagels. They still each have 10 votes.
The third scenario is how our elections work. We aren't forced to vote at all, and we certainly are not forced to choose between only two candidates. If you were given the choices of Trump or Clinton and you didn't want either, you have the option to not vote. Just like the bagels and donuts, your non-vote does not tip the scale in either direction. Likewise, if you already decided not to vote for Hillary or Donald but then found a viable third option (Johnson, Stein, etc.) to vote for, your vote still isn't tipping the scales in favor of either of the two main political parties.
|Wait, when do I carry the 1?|
Let's do the math. Of 20 people, we'll say 10 want to vote for Hillary, 8 for Trump, and 2 aren't voting. That's 18 votes total and the numbers favor Hillary. What each party wants you to think is that IF the two abstainers were voting, they would vote in favor of their/your candidate. And sometimes that might be the case. So if Team Trump can get to those two voters and convince them that not voting isn't an option, then we end up with a 50/50 split and Hillary loses the upper hand.
However, it frequently happens that the two people not voting really have no desire at all to vote. For any candidate. There is no "if they were voting" scenario, they simply were not going to vote. The numbers stay exactly where they were. So not voting does not tip the scales if you were never planning to vote in the first place.
See? A vote for a third party candidate is just a vote for a third party candidate. That's all. It's not a vote for your opposition. It isn't taking away a vote from your candidate. It's not a "protest" vote. It's not a "wasted" vote. It's a vote, and it counts just as much (or as little) as anyone else's.