Opinion: Stop blaming non-voters and people who vote third party in a system built on White Supremacy

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With Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders ending his campaign for the 2020 Presidential Election, the path for Joe Biden to take on Donald Trump is virtually guaranteed. Now, like every general election, the American people are divided and fear that the 2020 election will be equivalent or worse than the 2016 election.  

On one side you have citizens who will vote Republican no matter what. On the other side, you have those who vote “blue no matter who”. People often seem to forget about those in the middle. The voters who vote third party, those who write-in candidates, or who just don’t vote at all. 

Those that fall on the latter end of the spectrum take a lot of criticism and all of a sudden become the main reason to blame as to why we got to where we are, without realizing that the issue is much deeper than third-party candidates and non-voters. We got to where we are because we live in a system that is built on white supremacy. 

How a vast majority of elections work, the candidate who receives the most votes when it’s all said and done wins. But of course, America has to overcomplicate this simple system. For those that didn’t pay attention in history class or forgot, allow me to quickly explain how presidential elections work in America. 

To determine the next President of the United States, America uses this thing called the electoral college. A system where there are 538 electoral votes up for grabs, but a candidate only needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Each state has a certain number of electors, and whichever candidate has the most votes in that state receives the designated number of electors to inch closer to the 270 they need. So instead of having whoever receives the most votes win the presidency, we have this complicated system. 

In the past, the carpets matched the drapes, and more often than not, the candidate who won the electoral college also won the popular vote. It took a candidate to lose an election despite having three million more votes than her opponent for people to question the legitimacy of this outdated system. A system that was created during a time where African Americans were only counted as 3/5ths of a person and white people could still own slaves.

Adding this system to the heavy upper class white male-dominated politicians that lack the intersectional range to be a voice for the voiceless in a country as diverse as America, creates a recipe for minimal or reverse progress.

It is also important to explore the reasons why people don’t vote or choose to vote third party that those with privilege neglect to understand. 

A lot of people opt out of voting in presidential elections because of the way the electoral college works. If the state they live in continuously goes red or blue every four years, they are more than likely not going to be motivated to vote. 

You then have to factor in the major parties not nominating favorable candidates who adhere to the interests of the population that they are trying to serve. Especially, when it comes to issues that will affect them the most. These candidates aren’t for prison reform. They aren’t for healthcare reform. And they aren’t calling for reform when it comes to voter suppression. It’s a never-ending cycle of complacency. 

Voter suppression is alive and well today in various forms. Specifically in the South where it is targeted towards groups of color. Whether it’s citizens being denied the right to vote due to the egregious process for people who have a felony record to get their voting rights back, not making Election Day a federal holiday so people don’t have to risk a steady income to go vote, or the lack of public transportation available for those to get to their polling sites to ultimately choose from a list of candidates who won't fight for them, in the end, makes it even harder.
The Democratic party had the most diverse and inclusive bunch of presidential candidates ever seen in any election. Ranging from women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates, but to no surprise, a straight white man with a not so good history has claimed the nomination. Bringing forth the ever tired narrative of voting for the “lesser of two evils”. People are tired of voting for candidates with malice history attached to them, which is why millions of voters choose to go third party. 

Somehow throughout the grieving process of the 2016 monstrosity, the argument shifted to “a vote for a third-party candidate is automatically a vote for Trump”. When in reality, a vote for a third-party candidate is just a vote for that candidate. People have been voting third party for decades. This is nothing new. I think people use this argument as a coping mechanism to blind themselves from realizing the issue is much bigger than citizens exercising their human rights. And until people realize that, history will just repeat itself.

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