Throughout this election cycle, I have heard members of both major political parties voice their disapproval of their party’s chosen presidential candidate.
And as an international student, I have watched the events of this election season unfold knowing I won’t be able to vote myself. I understand, however, the frustration of those who are trying to select a candidate.
What I don’t quite understand, though, is the number of people who are still willing to vote for either Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican nominee Donald Trump, despite being unhappy with either choice.
It’s important for voters to remember that there are other choices in this presidential election. Third party candidates, like Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party, shouldn’t be dismissed.
“You always hear that you have to vote for the lesser of two evils,” said Tina Ngo, a junior political science major who ran for student body president on the Take TU ticket last year. “It’s just a false dichotomy. It’s not accurate.”
The two-party political system in the U.S. restricts the choices voters have — especially those who don’t quite fit under the Democratic or Republican umbrellas.
During the presidential primary elections, independent voters are restricted in their ability to vote in some states, like Pennsylvania. These closed primary states only allow voters who belong to the two major political parties to participate.
Even now, months later in the election process, voters are left uninformed about candidates outside the two most popular political parties.
During presidential debates, voters are only able to hear from the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Third party candidates are left out because the Commission on Presidential Debates requires candidates to poll at 15 percent in five national surveys to participate.
“The American bipartisan party system is set up in a way it forces you to pick between either the Democratic candidate or Republican candidate and it doesn’t really allow any freedom of choice,” Ngo said.
It is impossible to represent all, or even most, voices with just two parties. There will always be voters whose views won’t quite align with either the Democratic party or Republican party.
Freshman actuarial science major Matt Mecca is one such voter. He considers himself an independent and plans on voting for Johnson in this upcoming election.
“I am a big fan of his economic policies,” Mecca said. “I also agree with him on certain social issues, such as the legalization of marijuana.”
Mecca believes Johnson could gain more votes if the public were more aware of him.
“His big flaw is the lack of exposure,” Mecca said. “If you can get him to a level of national recognition, he would propel in the polls quite a bit and contend in the election.”
Tara Faik, a junior political science major who was campaign manager for the Take TU ticket, said she is voting for Stein.
“I’m voting for her because I’m sticking with my principles,” Faik said. “Jill Stein’s views and perspectives very closely match up with mine, and she’s closest thing to an ideal candidate that I’ve seen.”
Even if a voter’s selected third-party candidate doesn’t win the election, increased voter turnout can help that party win future elections. When an independent candidate earns at least 5 percent of the popular vote, that allows the party to qualify for public campaign funding assistance in the future, according to the Federal Election Commission.
“There is more to voting than just electing the president,” Faik said. “I think it’s more about your morals and strengthening the party that you hope is going to have more of a say in the future.”
By voting for who they truly believe in, voters can send a message that they are not happy with the current two-party system.
According to the Pew Research Center, 35 percent of Americans already identify themselves as independents. With more than a third of the population identifying as independents, these voters should see third-party candidates as a viable option, instead of casting their vote for the Republican or Democratic party’s candidates during an election year.
For those who don’t feel represented by the Democratic or Republican presidential candidates, I encourage you to be bold enough to cast a vote for a third party candidate this November.
That’s the only way to ensure you’ll see candidates who do represent your views in the future.
Kee Min can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.