When I get asked who I am voting for and the name I say is not one of the two expected, the response is inevitably, "so you are throwing your vote away?" This is a myth. In reality, a vote for a non-major party candidate actually does much more than a vote for the status quo.
The truth is as a Utahn, my vote for president was thrown away the day I registered to vote in this deep red state. I know all my electoral votes are going towards Mitt Romney. I knew this the day the man became the Republican nominee. If you vote in Texas, the Dakotas or Idaho you had similar knowledge. Likewise, if you live in New York, Massachusetts or Oregon you have known for the past four years your electoral votes would be under President Obama's name. In which case, why not vote for someone who actually stands up for principles you agree with, as opposed to someone whose opinions are based entirely on politics and not principles? Sure if you live in Nevada, Ohio or any other state feasibly close to "swinging," go ahead and vote for the guy you agree with 50 percent of the time over the guy you agree with 30 percent of the time just because "he's better."
But if not, take a stand for someone you really believe in. Honestly, what will do more? If Utah votes for Romney, 75 percent to Obama, 25 percent? Or Utah voting for Romney – 55 percent, Obama – 25 percent, and Gary Johnson –20 percent; Johnson being the super-fiscally conservative, anti-war candidate? No one would say backgammon or anything else over Utah going strong Romney. Yet, if any politician sees a large portion of the electorate going to a non-major party, they will notice and start changing tactics in order to gather that demographic.
Perhaps you actually believe in Romney or Obama, in which case vote for them — but you are likely kidding yourself. Essentially, if you believe in anything strongly, you likely do not agree with them. The major-party candidates' views are made to appease the largest segment of the electorate as possible.
Almost none of their stances are based on principles. You might say, "I believe in limited government and reducing the debt so I am voting for Mitt Romney." But if you really believe in that, do not vote for a guy who says he will balance the budget in 28 years. Vote for someone like Gary Johnson or Virgil Goode, who actually believe in balancing the budget now. A sizable electorate voting for Gary Johnson will do more to get Washington to start cutting than any number of votes for quasi-fiscal conservative Romney.
Maybe you care about the environment, then vote for someone who will take radical government action to fix the environment, such as Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Or if your concern is getting out of foreign wars, why would you vote for a man who sponsors clone attacks, involved us in wars in Libya and Syria and still has us in Afghanistan? Send a clear message to Washington that you want to get out of Afghanistan now and vote for Gary Johnson or Rocky Anderson. Basically your vote in the presidential election can count, even in Utah, if you are willing to jump outside the mainstream box and vote for someone you actually agree with.
Austen Gee is a resident of Salt Lake City.