How to Avoid "Wasting Your Vote"

Written by Leon Felkins, May 26 1996

Revised May 26 1996

"In the last election, I wanted to vote for Perot, but I knew he couldn't win, so I voted for Bush instead"" - Anonymous, heard on Public Radio
Folk wisdom has it that if you vote for a candidate that has little chance of winning, you are "Wasting your vote" and, therefore, you really should vote for someone who has some chance of winning instead. This interesting bit of wisdom is shared by the "man on the street", the college professor, and the news media persons alike. In this short essay, I will explore the ramifications of this well accepted piece of "logic" and show that the situation is not as simple as supposed and that the proposed stra tegy is sadly misdirected.

Aspects of the Problem


>From a personal point of view, we must conclude that our tiny vote cannot impact the results of a national election. Still, we should vote and we should vote for our desired candidate. In doing so, I have the satisfaction of standing true to my beliefs while at the same time knowing that I have not caused either of the more popular candidates to win or lose. I have not wasted my vote!!

And if we all vote honestly, new candidates and new parties that must start small, have a chance of becoming established. To vote otherwise is to endanger democracy.

(For more on what I have to say about this and related issues, visit my home page at <>.)