Trumps kicked off his campaign in 2015 by announcing that he will build a wall along the US-Mexico border and have the Mexican government pay for it. In the ensuing months, he added more insults to Muslim immigrants, minorities, women, journalists, and most recently, got into fights with the family of a slain Muslim U.S. soldier. His campaign tactics scared and offended many voters.
On the other hand, some voters especially those in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party dislike Clinton. She is viewed as too close to Wall Street, too eager to wage wars overseas, too beholden to AIPAC (American Israel Political Action Committee, a pro-Israeli lobby group), and too opportunistic on issues such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to suit her political needs. Her email scandal makes her appear to be untrustworthy.
Because both candidates are equally unappealing to many voters, many resort to vote for the lesser of the two evils. On the Democratic side, many voters will vote for Clinton because they are fearful that a Trump presidency will ruin the country. Likewise, many Republican voters will vote for Trump because their hatred or dislike of Clinton makes them feel that there is no other choice.
The Failing of the Two-Party System
The reason that voters are forced into choosing the lesser of the two evils is because we have a winner-take-all Electoral College system for our presidential elections in all states but Nebraska and Maine. Whoever wins the most popular votes in a state wins all of the state's electoral votes. This system favors a two-party system. It has been nearly impossible for third-party candidates to compete. In the 1992 election, Ross Perot won 19% popular vote but failed to get one single electoral vote.
Because of the dominance of the Democratic Party and the Republic Party in our politics, their candidates have the most media coverage and the financial resources to run a national campaign. For the 2016 election, the only reporting and campaign ads that play out in the airwaves are for the Republican and Democratic candidates. There has been practically no mentioning of the third-party candidates in the mainstream media. As a result, most voters do not even know who those candidates are and what their political views entail.
Another obstacle the third party candidates face is to be included in the national debates. The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) runs the presidential debates, a stage that provides the best opportunity for a candidate to highlight his or her vision for the country. In 2000, the CPD established a rule that a candidate must garner at least 15% support across five national polls to be included in the national debates. This is a rather high threshold for the third-party candidates. In the 2016 election, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, is polling at approximately 10% while Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, gets around 5%. Unless something drastically happened by September, neither candidate is expected to reach the 15% threshold to be included in the national debate.
It is worth noting that CDP is a non-profit organization controlled by Democratic Party and Republican Party. It is sponsored by private donations from foundations and corporations. In 2008, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) found that 93 percent of the contributions to CPD came from just six donors whose names were not disclosed by CPD.
Therefore, under the current two-party system, when the candidates nominated by the two major parties are highly unpopular among the general public as in this election cycle, voters are left with no choice but to hold their nose and vote for the lesser evil. This is the failing of the two-party system and a sad commentary on the state of our democracy. We are not choosing the candidate to be our next president based on his or her leadership quality, inspirational personality, vision for the country, or concerns over the humanity but simply because he or she is the lesser of the two evils.
As a voter, I would like to vote for a candidate whose policies and vision for the country are close to what I believe in and my vote counts. Therefore, as a first step, we should change the electoral votes from winner-take-all to proportional allocation. The result of the election would represent the will of the majority of the population. A repeat of the 2000 election in which Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the presidency to George W. Bush will not happen.
Secondly, we need to have a voting system enabling third-party candidates effectively to be included in the process. In the situation when neither major party nominee meets my expectation, I could vote for a third-party candidate whom I can support and not feeling my vote is a waste.
The following proposals provide that possibility:
(A) Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)/Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)
It is a voting system to elect a single candidate from a field of more than two candidates. It works by having voters rank candidates in order of preference. Every ballot is tallied, and if no candidate gets over 50%, the least-voted for candidate is eliminated from the race. For those voters who picked the eliminated candidate as their first choice, their ballots are recounted without the loser and their votes will be added to the next-highest ranked choice. This process repeats until one candidate has over 50%, and is declared the winner. This is also called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), a process to ensure no vote is wasted.
Several countries such as Australia, India, Ireland or Papua New Guinea have used this system to elect either members of the legislature or head of state.
(B) Approval Voting
Approval voting is a single-winner voting method used for elections. Each voter may approve (i.e. select) of any number of candidates. The winner is the most-approved candidate.
Proponents for this system consider this to be a fairer system for both major and minor parties. The spoiler effect as proclaimed by some in the 2000 election of Ralph Nader and the 1992 election of Ross Perot in 1992 will not happen here as Approval Voting allows casting votes for both alternative candidates and a more electable frontrunner.
There are merits and drawbacks in each of the systems proposed above, and it is a complicated process to revamp the current system. But the dilemma voters face in this year’s election should serve as a wakeup call for a fair election process that will truly represent the will of the people.