Friday, September 30, 2016

Election Math

I'm guessing by this point that most people have heard someone say that voting for a third party candidate is either a wasted vote or a vote for the opposition (Trump or Clinton, depending on to whom you're speaking). You might even have heard President Obama say this very thing.

This donut's just a metaphor, right?
And to a certain degree, it has some truth to it. Say you're at work and tomorrow is someone's birthday. To celebrate, your boss says she'll bring in either donuts or bagels for breakfast. You can't/won't eat either (maybe you're going gluten free or cutting carbs or just hate fun), but you must choose one or the other. Half of your coworkers are saying, "Oh man, let's get donuts! Donuts are way better than boring old bagels!" and the other half are saying, "Bagels are CLEARLY better than donuts! Let's get bagels!" There are 20 other people in the office (and therefore 21 votes), 10 voting for bagels and 10 for donuts. If you vote for bagels, you're "taking away" a vote for donuts. If you vote for donuts, you're "taking away" a vote for bagels. Either way, people are upset with you and you're voting for something you don't even want.

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.

This goes for supporting a third option as well. Let's say those 2 voters are voting for third party candidates: one for Johnson and one for Stein. They never considered another candidate and are set on voting this way. That's 20 votes total now, but the scales haven't tipped. That's still 10 for Hil and 8 for Don, plus 1 for Gary and 1 for Jill.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment