11 October 2016

Can we have a civics lesson here?

The American Mormon Republican world doesn't like Trump.  It never did, but it finally got disgusted enough to do something about it (better late than never, I guess). But it also really, really doesn't like Hillary Clinton.  So what's an American Mormon Republican supposed to do?

One suggestion that keeps getting presented as a realistic strategy is to vote third party.  And this is the first part of the civics lesson because this is tilting at windmills.*   The idea is that, somehow, both Trump and Hillary Clinton don't get to 270 and someone like Evan McMullin wins Utah.  In that case, the election would go to the House where each state would get one vote and they'd choose between Clinton, Trump, and whoever else got the most electoral college votes.  Then, for some unknown reason, the House chooses the person who came in third.

First, having any third-party candidate win a state is extremely difficult.  It hasn't happened in 48 years and there is no polling that indicates that it will happen this year.  But let's say it does and that Evan McMullin wins 6 electors in Utah.

The trouble is, that doesn't help because Hillary Clinton is well on her way to winning 270 electors.  Her losing a reliably red state is meaningless in her electoral count because she's certainly not expecting to win Utah no matter what.  To not get to 270, she would need to lose almost every single swing state to Trump (or someone else, but see the first point), but she's polling ahead in most of those states.  For this strategy to work, not only does someone like McMullin have to win Utah, he also needs to come up with a way to make sure Trump wins everything else in play.  But let's say that happens too (we're obviously entering an alternate reality at this point) and McMullin gets 6 votes, Hillary gets 269, and Trump gets 263.

The vote then goes to the House where they choose between the top three people to get electoral college votes.  Like I said above, each state gets one vote.  For the McMullin strategy to work, he would need to convince 26 states to vote for him, a person that almost no USian has ever heard of, who only won 6 votes out of 538, and who got a tiny percentage of the popular vote.  Sure, the one state/one vote rule greatly favors a Republican in that case, but why in the world would the House pick McMullin?  I honestly don't know what the House would do, but it's certainly not likely that they'd pick an entirely unknown person with absolutely no mandate behind him except their own.

I just had to say this once more so I quit saying it on Facebook because any Republican who votes for anyone besides Trump is smart in my book.  Friends don't let friends vote for Trump.

Finally, there is a reason why we have two major parties in the US and that is our constitutionally- mandated election system.  Since we only have one round of voting and since we have a first past the post system, it is nearly impossible to have more than two major parties.  Voting third party has worked less than a handful of times in over 200 years.  If you want that to change, we need to change the constitution. It's not the parties and it's not the primaries that cause this.  It's the constitution.

*To be clear, I do not think a third-party vote is wasted if the voter has thought about the issues and chosen a candidate they are satisfied with. Vote for someone whose policies you like and whose negatives you can live with. Just be prepared for disappointment if you don't choose one of the major party candidates.

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