Episode 2 – The Worth of Your Vote

Welcome to Braving Politics Podcast! I’m Emily Bergeson, a candidate with the United Utah Party and today we will be talking about the worth of your vote. As a candidate of a new political party which seeks to find solutions outside of the two-party system, I often get asked several questions. The questions themselves reveal what we have been trained to think our vote is worth and provide a perfect framework for getting deeper into understanding why your vote is so important. 

Here’s a common question: If I vote for a candidate that is not a Republican or Democrat, won’t I just be throwing away my vote?

Let’s think about this question for a moment. Is any vote “thrown away”? No vote is ever thrown away. Why? Because people in politics LOVE numbers. They are constantly taking polls and collecting data. The best and most accurate poll, though, is the ballot box. Your vote is so important. So very important. Your vote is the only way you can really tell the government what you want.

The problem really comes when your options are limited. It’s not that you are throwing away your vote, it’s that you’re not able to say as much as you were hoping to say with that vote. 

Let’s use a simple example. Let’s say stores only carry apples and blueberries. They don’t carry anything else. And according to store policy, you can only buy one at a time — either buy apples or buy blueberries, but not both. Why is that? Because that’s the store’s policy and they have no reason to do anything differently. 

Okay, fine. It’s been a while and everyone is pretty much used to it, so you look at the apples, you look at the blueberries, think about the differences in cost and nutrients and finally pick one. Maybe your choice is easy. Maybe you come from a family who only eats apples. Maybe your family only eats blueberries. Maybe your family used to eat apples but now you’ve switched to blueberries. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Whatever it is, we’re at a point where everyone is talking so much about apples and blueberries that maybe we should pause to think…

Why do we only have two choices?

And if we are at that point where we want more choices, that’s where your vote comes in. That is the power of your vote. Your vote is how you tell people what you want. If you are fine with the way things are, use your vote to let the government know you’re happy. But if you’re unhappy with the way things are, you need to start voting differently. 

In 2016 when many voters were unhappy with the apples and blueberries they had to choose from, an independent candidate showed up and won an unusually high number of votes. Let me tell you, a lot of people took notice. That’s one reason why the United Utah Party was able to gain so much momentum. Because so many people were willing to vote for someone other than the Republican or the Democrat, signalling that people are not happy with the way things are. That made space for talented people who were willing to put in the work of creating a new political party so that now we have more choices. That would have been far less likely to happen if people weren’t willing to use their vote to say what they wanted.

Another question that sometimes comes up is the question about the “spoiler” effect? If I vote for someone outside of Republicans or Democrats, won’t I just be helping the other side? 

I’ll answer this question by first saying ranked choice voting could easily fix this problem. Ranked choice voting, instant runoff voting, or whatever you want to call it, allows you to vote for all and rank in order of preference, the candidates you like.  If your top choice doesn’t get enough votes, your vote is then given to your second choice. If the second choice doesn’t get enough votes either then, your vote is given to your third choice and so on until there is a clear winner. There are lots of cool videos that explain how this works. I seriously wish we were allowed to vote this way… I’m hoping we will get there eventually. Some parts of the country already use ranked choice voting.

Anyway, since most of us don’t have the luxury of ranked choice voting yet, your vote can only count towards one person. People argue that if you usually vote for a certain political party but then you decide to change over and vote for someone else, you weaken that political party’s chances of winning because this other option has stolen away the votes. Some voters are worried that voting for a new person will give more power to the candidates they REALLY don’t want to win. So they vote for the candidate they don’t necessarily like, but reason that it’s better than letting the other guy win. But, all that does is keep us stuck buying apples or blueberries. You know, maybe they were great at one point, but right now, I would give anything for a plum or peach or heck, even a vegetable…something else! And if you’re unhappy like I am, we need to vote accordingly.

Here’s another question I get. Doesn’t a third person coming into the race ruin things? I would argue they don’t. For one, if you are a Republican in Utah, the super majority held by Republicans is so large, it is really hard for a Democrat to win in most races, even if the Republican loses your vote. In fact, in certain races a Democrat doesn’t even bother running anymore because the chances of winning are so low. Take my race for example. I am the only other option. There is no Democrat in the race, no other political party, no other choice. Without me, the Repbulican would simply get coronated in November, without having had to do any work to win your vote. The same goes for super majorities in certain parts of the state and across the country where the Democrats or the Republicans are the majority. In cases like this, even if you tried, your vote wouldn’t help the “other side” win.  

In areas where people are more split and it’s anybody’s guess whether a Republican or Democrat will win is more interesting, and in that case, politicians rightfully argue that a third person could spoil it. That’s why I love the United Utah Party. The numbers show we take from both major parties. We appeal to both Republicans and Democrats, so if we’re splitting the vote, we’re splitting it from both sides. You voting for a United Utah Party candidate doesn’t necessarily help the “other person” win because there are plenty of other people like you who want to see the system change too.

But again, going back to the choices we have, things will never change unless we actively support the other option. Simply refusing to vote doesn’t help. You have to actually vote in order for people to stand up and pay attention. 

Our vote tells people, especially politicians — I like what you stand for or hey, you’re doing a great job. Our vote says I agree or I disagree. It is the best way to let people know what we think, what we’re happy about, what we’re unhappy about.

So with that in mind, think about the current political environment. There is a lot you can say with your one little vote. You can say, I don’t want either of you guys. You can say, Yeah! I totally agree with the way things are going. With every vote that says something honest and true to what you think, the more politicians and politics will adjust. Politicians pay attention to the polls. And the best poll is the ballot. 

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