A Responsible Way To Vote Third-Party

Unhappy with major-party candidates? You're not alone. There's a reason 42 percent of American adults identify as independent; the major parties just aren't doing it for many of us. People who aren't content with major-party candidates face a tough decision on election day: Do you vote for the candidate whose policies you least dislike in order to prevent the candidate whose policies you most dislike from winning? Or do you vote third-party, making it easier for the candidate you least prefer to win by not voting for their opposing major-party candidate? VotePact is a way around that dilemma, allowing people to vote third-party without spoiling the election.

VotePact is the brainchild of Sam Husseini, communications director at the Institute for Public Accuracy. The idea is for disenchanted voters on the left and right to pair up as "vote buddies," each agreeing to vote for someone besides the major-party candidate that would otherwise get their "lesser-of-two-evils" vote. By forming this pact, the major-party candidates on both sides are deprived of one vote. This prevents the "spoiler effect," a term that describes how voting for a third-party or independent candidate in a two-party system can tip the election to the major-party candidate the voter least wants in office.

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This idea could not be more timely. As it is looking increasingly likely that Sec. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be 2016's presidential nominees, a debate has hashed out concerning the responsibility of Sen. Bernie Sanders' supporters to vote Democratic in November no matter who the nominee is. Yet many have vowed not to do so unless that nominee is Sanders. Progressives who support Sanders are probably among those who would least like to see Trump in the White House. Yet writing Sanders in or voting for a third-party candidate could give Trump an advantage in the general election.

With VotePact, though, the "Bernie or Bust"-ers could vote for the candidate they actually prefer without giving Trump an advantage. Husseini hasn't developed any system for matching people up with vote buddies, but there is a VotePact Facebook page where people can meet and share strategies. As of this time, the idea is to match yourself up with someone you know and trust within your state (that's important for the electoral vote count) and vote how you want.

VotePact is about more than being able to vote your conscience. If disenchanted voters continue to settle for major-party candidates that don't really represent their values by voting for them, then the parties have no reason to change. What is more, if the VotePact initiative really takes off and lots of people vote for independent or third-party candidates, it will lift those marginalized candidates and parties to a new height of visibility and credibility.

If you end up being unhappy with major-party options this year, try to find yourself a vote buddy. That way, you can vote your conscience and send the parties a clear message while avoiding the dreaded spoiler effect.