Your Turn: Mother Jones Readers Sound Off on Voting Third Party

“Why screw up the most important election in a century?”

Collage featuring Jill Stein and Cornel West intermixed with ballot graphics.

Mother Jones; Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/Getty, Christopher Evans/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald/Getty

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Frustrated by the two-party system? Polling shows you’re not alone, with more Americans than ever supporting the idea of a third party. But the winner of November’s presidential election will be either Biden or Trump, and voters weighing other candidates need to consider if a protest vote to end the duopoly might instead help end our democracy. In the May+June 2024 issue, we examine the past and present of third-party outsiders, and how they could upend this year’s race. You can read all the pieces here.

When we asked the Mother Jones online community to answer a survey on their personal experiences with and thoughts on turning away from the two parties, hundreds of replies came in, along with thousands of responses on Threads, X, and Instagram. While some of you chimed in to talk about decades-old votes for Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, and even Eldridge Cleaver, many instead focused on this year’s election, and how Trump’s record and authoritarian tendencies are shaping their decisions. Read the selection below—and if you’d like to join the conversation, use the form at the bottom of the page.


Survey comments

I was a delegate to the 2016 Democratic convention for Bernie. I voted for Jill Stein that November. I don’t regret it one bit. I voted for Biden in 2020 after Trump’s “stand back and stand by” nonsense. I don’t regret that either. In 2024, I will be voting Stein again. Biden had a chance to prepare a successor and he didn’t. He turned his back on progressives. Gabriel McArthur, Littleton, Colo.

In my opinion, there is zero value to voting for someone who has no chance of actually being elected. I prefer my vote actually count for the person running whom I think will be best for the citizens of the United States. —John Sturges, Chula Vista, Calif.

Unfortunately, our electoral system is dysfunctional and still has not been updated to be fair to voters, so I consider it necessary to vote for the Democrat to avoid further destruction of our country by Republicans. We need to give up the Electoral College and count the popular vote instead, or even use run-off voting, so that third party candidates have a fair chance. —Mary Hahn, Spring Green, Wis.

I’m a lifelong Democrat. But I don’t know if I can vote for Biden, who is supporting genocide in Gaza. But would doing that help the Republican maniac? In my state, New York, I’ll watch the polls right before the election. If Biden is way ahead, I’ll vote 3rd party. I really don’t know what I’m going to do. Lee McClure, New York, N.Y. 

Since the end of World War II, our rulers have killed millions in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Colombia, and Vietnam. The graveyards of this planet are full from atrocities set into motion by Democratic presidents. I’ve been voting for left-wing, anti-war “third party” candidates since 1992 and sleep soundly at night knowing I don’t have blood on my hands. Duane Roberts, Anaheim, Calif.

I’m tired of the two-party duopoly that legislates for their corporate donors’ agenda and against the interests of the American people. Michelle Torres, Hope Mills, N.C.

I started my political life in 1980 by not only voting for a third party candidate, John Anderson, but I was a campaign volunteer as well. I voted for Jill Stein in 2016, and Howie Hawkins in 2020. Why? I’ve always believed that the de-facto 2 party system in America is only one party better than a 1 party system. The fact is, the Electoral College makes my vote worth nothing since I live in Texas. —Richard Nicholson, Fort Worth, Texas

I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. I live in Washington State, so didn’t feel the outcome here was in doubt; my calculation would have been different if I’d lived in a state like Florida. If the circumstances were the same today, I would probably vote the same way for the same reasons (despite having good friends who still blame Nader for Gore’s loss, a position I strongly disagree with). But the circumstances are not the same today! Making sure Trump isn’t elected is of paramount importance. Charles Klyn, Seattle, Wash.


Threads

I am a dual citizen of Canada and the US. I lived in Montreal for 25 years and really appreciated that there are more than 2 parties in Canada as it’s a parliamentary system. The US system is not made for more than the two and so a 3rd party does not have a voice except to negate one of the 2 major ones, as I see it. —@suzan_ballmer 

No, I’ve never voted 3rd party. I never will. Unless a party has the GOP/DEM type support behind it, they’re just wasted votes. And to people saying “I’m sending a message,” you’re really not. You’re only helping or hurting one of the candidates. WastedVote. @vickie.sneddon 

I can only say to you that a lot of people are planning to vote third party in 2024 because of the massacre in Gaza and Biden’s conduct. @lauretttt2

The two-party system has stagnated progress. We need more voices. I only ever vote for the candidate who best aligns with my beliefs, and I’ll never regret following my principles. @chilidogsunday 

My first election I voted for John Anderson and we got Reagan and decades of trickle down bullshit. Worst mistake of my life and I’ll never do it again. I didn’t understand in a system where someone needs to get 270 electoral votes it was a waste of a vote. P.S. I’m in PA, always a swing state, so I would NEVER consider it. If you’re in a solid red or blue state it’s probably less critical but still sends zero message. @elayne_baker 

How do we change the system if we just sit back and wait? What, do we expect the two major parties to voluntarily give up power, send us a perfumed invitation? @muddlepi

Never saw the point. While I believe we would be much better off with multiple parties, we have a deeply entrenched two party system. So I will vote for the party that is most likely to represent the will of the people. In my lifetime that is the Dems, far from perfect but also far from fascism. @cathy.walker.54738


X


Instagram

By voting third party, you get a better Democratic Party. This is how politics works. If Biden isn’t willing to actually use his power to stop a genocide, I will do everything in my power to make sure trump beats Biden by voting for Jill Stein. @marxengelsleninstalin1945

Hell no! Why screw up the most important election in a century and possibly in all time. @farnsworthminnie5

I have only voted third party in local elections, but this year I’ll be carrying that practice into the national election because I cannot vote for Genocide Joe AND I believe the Democratic Party needs to be punished. @sarah.kdosi

A viable strong third-party candidate would be great, but that doesn’t exist right now. The most important thing is to keep Trump out of the White House. @fxtrot2000

I started voting in 1988, voted third party all the way up until 2016, with an exception in 2004. In 2004, 2016, 2020, and ’24 and onward, there is too much at stake. Democracy must be maintained, and the only way to do that is to vote for democracy, and vote blue. @trystan830

I’m absolutely voting 3rd party this year, if not now.. when? 💜 I’m sure both parties are going to do their best to have the media scare us into staying away from 3rd party.. must be doing something right if they’re scared. @both_sides_heard

Until we have nationwide ranked choice voting and eliminate the electoral college, we cannot vote third party! —@chrislovestechno

I have voted third party and was at one time registered as a third-party constituent. Today, I am registered NPP in CA, but vote in Dem primaries. I’m firmly entrenched, currently, in the “a vote away from Biden is a vote for Trump” camp. Accordingly, any 3P candidate is an anathema against democracy/tacitly supporting fascism. That said, in the spirit of Gene Debs, et al, we need to strengthen the DSA and support candidates from the smallest school boards to candidates for national office not beholden to corporate influences. Only then, IMHO, will viability of a 3P candidate for president be a reality. —@westley_man


Chime in!

Have you ever voted third party? If so, are you happy you did, or did you come to regret it? And are you considering voting third party in 2024? Why or why not?

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

Straight to the point: Donations have been concerningly slow for our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, over the next few weeks so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

Straight to the point: Donations have been concerningly slow for our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, over the next few weeks so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate