Two wasted votes

I’ve heard a lot this political season about not wasting your vote by voting for a 3rd party. That if you vote your conscience that you’re condemning America to four years of Clinton or Trump. They are, it is said, the only two real choices in this election.

To some degree or another, that’s correct. The next chief executive will likely be chosen from one of the two dominant political parties in our country. It has always been that way and likely will remain so for the remainder of my life.

But (and you knew one of those was coming), I’ve come around to a different way of thinking. It’s time for us to change the way in which we decide for whom to vote.

Originally, our Constitution was set up to have a group of people (called “Electors”) select the President. That group, when convened, was known as the “Electorial College.” It was the job of these people, selected in a manner chosen by their respective state legislatures, to weigh the pros and cons of each candidate and select the person best suited to run the country. The popular vote was expressly rejected, largely because of slavery in the South.

The most popular original mode of selection was the “District method.” This method is described best by Alexander Hamilton in :

It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any preestablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture.

It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.

It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place.

In a letter to George Hay, wrote:

The district mode was mostly, if not exclusively in view when the Constitution was framed & adopted; and was exchanged for the general ticket & the Legislative election, as the only expedient for baffling the policy of the particular States which had set the example. A constitutional establishment of that mode will doubtless aid in reconciling the smaller States to the other change which they will regard as a concession on their part. And it may not be without a value in another important respect. The States when voting for President by general tickets or by their Legislatures, are a string of beeds: When they make their elections by districts, some of these differing in sentiment from others, and sympathizing with that of districts in other States, they are so knit together as to break the force of those Geographical & other noxious parties which might render the repulsive too strong for the cohesive tendencies within the political System.

So, while each respective legislature was allowed to chose the manner in which electors were chosen, there was one method, in particular, which the framers had in mind. That method was intentionally designed to foster deliberate thinking and decision-making with the good of the country in mind, rather than “making history” or “blowing it all up.”

Why bring all of this up? Because here we are, 226 years later dealing with an instance in which both major political party candidates are so noxious to the people that they have net negative likability scores. I’m pretty sure that this is what Madison had in mind when he said “render the repulsive too strong” for a system meant to stick together.

Nevertheless, we have the system that we have. And, I’m being told that my vote is wasted if I don’t vote for one of the two major parties. The thing is, I don’t buy into that. For as long as you’ve known me, I have told people to go vote their consciences.

Now, have I kind of held my nose and voted for a Republican candidate before? Yeah. Have I even encouraged others to do the same? Probably. As a rule, the Republicans have had a platform which has most closely aligned with my own values. And, that means something.

In this election, though, the party nominated someone who not only didn’t win my vote but actually told me that he didn’t really want my vote. So, I didn’t give it to him.

I’m not going to say who I did vote for, other than to say that it wasn’t a person from a major party. What I will tell you is that I spent a good chunk of time looking at all of the official candidates eligible for the Texas ballot and chose the person who most closely aligned with my own values. In short, I fulfilled the job that the Framers had in mind for the electors.

So, what are the two wasted votes that I mention in the title?

  1. Any vote cast by a person who thought that they were really voting for a person rather than a slate of electors. Go look up “Faithless elector” — it’s a rare thing to see, but a thing nonetheless.
  2. Any vote that was cast so that “the other person” didn’t get elected or “because of the Supreme Court.” That wasn’t the intent of how we should vote. It never was. And people who voted for someone who didn’t square with their values based only upon that will get the government that they deserve.

Bibliography

  1. James Madison (1823), James Madison to George Hay, 23 Aug 1823. National Archives. Retrieved November 8, 2016 from National Archives: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-02-02-0023.
  2. Alexander Hamilton (1788), Federalist 68. The Avalon Project. Retrieved November 8, 2016 from The Avalon Project: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed68.asp.
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