Sour on spoilers

Published 11:08 am Friday, May 31, 2024

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There are currently three third party candidates for president: Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Jill Stein and Cornell West. All three candidates claim they are running to give voters a choice and a chance to voice their views. All three insist they are not “spoilers.” Let’s examine this.

In the last century, the most successful third party candidate was Ross Perot, with less than 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992. Voting third party is a “choice” to vote for someone who will not win. However, Teddy Roosevelt helped Wilson defeat Taft in 2012 and Ralph Nader helped Bush defeat Gore in 2000. They were “spoilers.” Polls indicate the Biden-Trump race may be close enough to allow a “spoiler” to decide the election.

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The best way to create choice is to promote a voting system such as ranked choice voting, approval voting, or star voting.

They all allow voters to vote for whom they like without fear of the “spoiler” effect and each of those methods increase the chance of a third party victory because they each remove the fear of voting one’s conscience. 

For example, if you like Cornell West more than any other candidate, and if your state chose to switch to ranked choice voting for elections (it is already happening in some states), you can vote for Dr. West as your first choice without considering him a spoiler because you also get to choose one of the two major party candidates as your number two choice. Then, if no one gets 50 percent (plus one) and your first choice candidate actually comes in third, your second choice goes to an “instant runoff” and you have both voted with your conscience and your “realpolitik” power. You have not wasted your vote; you have not enabled the victory of someone you are horrified to see win.

That system especially favors “down ballot” chances for electing (for example) an independent House or Senate member.

The best ways to use your “voice” include letters to the editor, letters to candidates and elected officials, social media posts, peaceful demonstrations and thoughtful donations – donations to causes, not necessarily to candidates with no chance of winning.

If you want to create choice, you are better off changing our voting system than you are by voting for a “spoiler.” Your “spoiler vote” could help to defeat someone you yourself consider the best candidate with a real chance to win.

(Barry Rosenberg is a political activist with Swing Blue Alliance, We the People Mass, and Indivisible Westford.)