Third party on

John C. Reiger is a Peace and Freedom Party congressional candidate and veteran third-party activist

Once again, the American public is worried about the effect third-party candidates might have on an election, and again people are told that we shouldn’t waste our vote because “they can’t win.”

True—with rare exceptions. This is not surprising; the two main parties wrote the rules. Legislative districts are designed to be either safe Democrat or safe Republican districts. They are owned by one party, and if you don’t belong to that particular party, no one represents you. This is not democracy. Throughout history, third parties have proposed the new ideas that have improved America.

We also hear that “third-party candidates are spoilers.”

Under the current undemocratic rules, third-party candidates can indeed draw votes away from your favorite candidate, or your least favorite candidate. A simple voting system called instant runoff voting (IRV) can eliminate the spoiler issue. With IRV, there’s a runoff election within the election.

You rank your choices among the candidates: first choice, second, etc. If no candidate gets a majority in the first tabulation, the candidate with the lowest vote is eliminated, and the second-choice votes of that candidate are distributed among the remaining candidates. This goes on until one candidate gets more than 50-percent approval from the voters. That’s an honest mandate from the voters.

With IRV, you can vote for your favorite third-party candidate and still affect the outcome. IRV will minimize negative campaigning. Candidates will be reluctant to criticize their opponents, because they’ll want the second-choice votes of their opponents’ supporters.

Some still think that having only two parties is best.

Most people would complain loudly about only two choices when buying shoes, a car or a rug. Why are we content with only two choices for our political representative? The current voting system tries to force everyone into a two-sizes-fit-all choice. American political opinion is wider than that.

People joked about the Soviet Union’s re-election rate of 95 percent. Well, folks, we’ve done better. Now, between 96 percent and 98 percent of our congressional representatives are re-elected. Is this democracy? Our democracy may never be perfect, but we can do a lot better. We need to change the rules, allow Americans to vote for what they truly want and allow new parties with new ideas to have a seat at the table.