With the presidential election approaching, it is again time for those disenchanted with the Republican and Democratic parties to address two questions: Will such a vote cause the greater of two evils to win? Is a vote for a minor party (or independent) candidate a wasted vote?
In Idaho, the answer to both is “no.” In presidential elections, it is not the plurality of the national popular vote that determines who the next president is but the Electoral College — the composition of which is determined by whichever slate of electors wins a plurality of a state’s popular vote.
With only one exception (in 1964), the Republicans’ slate of electors has won Idaho’s popular vote in every election since 1952 — typically, by large margins. Since 2000, the Democrats’ slate of electors have won, on average, only 31.2% of Idaho’s popular vote.
Essentially, this means that, barring something unprecedented, Idaho’s electors will be voting for President Trump this November (sorry Democrats, but if then-Sen. Obama could win only 36% of Idaho’s vote in 2008, during the financial crisis, former Vice President Biden is not going to win Idaho this year).
Because of how large the margin of victory typically is, this leaves ample room for votes towards minor party candidates without voters having to wonder whether they are “throwing” the election to the greater of two evils or not. If the Democrats’ only win 31.2% of the popular vote, the remaining percent could be split in two, and President Trump would still win Idaho’s electoral votes (with Biden coming in third).
This should leave those disenchanted with the two major-party nominees free to vote for a candidate more favorable to their values; whether this is Jo Jorgensen (Libertarian), Don Blankenship (Constitution) or Howie Hawkins (Green).
A “vote of conscience” like this could pay dividends in the long-run. Despite never winning the presidency, minor parties, when they have been moderately successful, have pressured the major parties to cater to their positions in subsequent elections, in the hope of winning over their voters in the future. Democrats adopted many of the Populist Party’s positions after the latter won 9% of the vote (and 22 electoral votes) in 1892. Republicans adopted many of independent Ross Perot’s positions after the latter won 19% of the vote in 1992.
A similar result could occur if a minor party cracks 5% or more nationally in 2020 — especially since a minor party would then qualify for federal matching funds valued in the millions. Imagine what both parties would do if a minor party candidate won 20%, 25% or even 30% of the vote in Idaho this November. Imagine what positions both parties would need to adopt to win over this bloc of voters, to ensure future victories.
Voters who want to see a change need to vote accordingly — the bonus here in Idaho is that they can do so without having to worry about the results.