First and foremost, I’m not advocating the whole notion of voters taking a powder on choosing between the Democratic presidential ticket of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine or the Republican ticket of Donald J. Trump and Mike Pence and “parking” their votes with a third party or independent.
The Electoral College renders the notion of third party voting or “parking your vote” as a protest of the major party candidates a moot and futile point in most cases. The electors for the party that gets the most votes in Mississippi will get all the state’s six electoral votes, even if that total for the winning candidate/ticket is less than 50 percent of the state’s popular vote.
So voting for a third party candidate or “parking you vote” is, in reality, a rather narcissistic exercise that will accomplish little more than making you feel good about being able to say later on that you voted for neither Clinton nor Trump in 2016 — despite the fact that one of them will be living in the White House for the next four years.
And in Mississippi, our six electoral votes will almost certainly be counted for Trump. There are no reputable national polls that don’t show Mississippi as a safe state for the Republican nominee. Trump has spent an inordinate amount of time campaigning in Mississippi given our state’s anemic status in presidential politics.
Mississippi represents 1.115 percent of the electoral vote total. In the 2012 election, Mississippi with 1.2 million of the total 126.14 million votes cast accounted for 0.951 percent of the nation’s popular vote.
That said, there are any number of voters in Mississippi (and elsewhere) who for whatever reason can’t stomach voting for either of the major party nominees in the 2016 presidential election. Those voters face several alternatives, which include just skipping the presidential race altogether and voting in the down ballot races, voting third party or “parking their vote” with a minor party presidential candidate’s electors, or some last minute in-the-ballot-box choosing mechanism (coin flip or “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” come to mind).
Voters choosing to eschew a presidential vote for either Clinton or Trump can gravitate toward the Libertarian ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld, the Green Party ticket of Dr. Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka, the Constitution Party ticket of Darrell Castle and Scott Bradley, the Reform Party ticket of Rocky de la Fuente and Michael Steinberg, or the Prohibition Party ticket of Jim Hedges and Bill Bayes.
There are other realities to third party voting or “parking your vote” in presidential races. The most recent example was the 2000 presidential race that ended in the bitter Florida recount.
In that race, Green Party candidate and consumer advocate Ralph Nader won enough popular votes in two states — Florida and New Hampshire — to have tipped those states from handing their electoral votes to eventual winner President George W. Bush and giving them to Democratic nominee Al Gore.
Nader won 97,488 votes in Florida, which easily could have swung the election to give Gore the state’s then-25 electoral votes and eliminating the need for a recount. Additionally, combining Nader’s four percent of the New Hampshire vote to Gore’s 47 percent would have given Gore a 270 to 267 victory in the Electoral College.
Democrats nationally have long loathed Nader’s “spoiler” role in that 2000 race and blamed him for Gore’s loss, but Nader’s defenders point to this fact: Bush beat Gore in Florida by 543 votes when the counting ceased and it’s important to note that every third-party candidate (Natural Law, Reform, Libertarian, Worker’s World, Constitution, Socialist, and Socialist Workers) in that race received enough votes in Florida to have cost Gore the election.
I have rock-ribbed conservative Republican friends who say they plan to skip casting a vote for Trump and are “parking their vote” with a third party contender while otherwise voting a straight Republican ticket. Likewise, I have heard from some Democrats who say they can’t support Clinton and plan to protest by “parking” their votes elsewhere.
At the end of the day, again, such choices are viable options and it’s the right of those voters to make them. But there are examples like the 2000 presidential campaign that prove that in close races, the “parking” of votes or outright third party voting can bring about unintended consequences.
Author: Sid Salter