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It’s 2024, and we are met with yet another frustrating presidential election. This will be my second election, and for the second time, I have the “privilege” of choosing between Donald Trump and Joe Biden-thrilling.

The political landscape of the U.S. is riddled with an explosive set of considerations. Joe Biden is more than “complacent” in Israel’s affront against Gaza-he, alongside a bipartisan Congress, are active participants. The White House has approved more than 100 arms deals with Israel since Oct. 7, and the Democrat-led Senate passed a hefty 14 billion dollar aid package, which awaits approval in the House of Representatives.

The alternative: an egoistic capitalist whose rhetoric not only stoked the flames of an insurrection but has emboldened violence against marginalized groups. In the article, “Did Trump’s Presidency Reshape Americans’ Prejudices?,” authors Benjamin Ruisch and Melissa Ferguson provide frightening statistics that help to contextualize the damage his words have caused. In the first quarter of Trump’s presidency alone, anti-Semitic hate crimes increased 86% compared to the same time the year before. Similarly, anti-Muslim hate crimes rose 90% in the first half of 2017.

For many voters, the choice comes down to the lesser of two evils. But, when both candidates are so overtly wicked, choosing who to bubble on the ballot is incredibly difficult. Yet again, this election will be a critical inflection point in American politics. Many young voters are participating in an election for the first time this year, and their engagement could shape the political landscape for decades to come. Young voters face the challenge of navigating an increasingly polarized political environment almost entirely devoid of viable options. But, we have the opportunity to redefine what politics means to a generation disillusioned by previous elections. Why should we settle for a lesser evil when we have the right to demand better?

Let’s discuss third-party voting. A third party (3P) is any political entity distinct from the two major parties, such as the Green Party or the Party for Socialism and Revolution. I advocate for third parties because they offer alternative perspectives.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans represent my views, and 63% of Americans are open to the idea of third parties becoming a significant force in our political system. Third parties introduce robust competition to challenge our restrictive two-party system.

Many countries with a multiparty system have shown that this diversity encourages a democracy that is both sustainable and representative. Despite their potential to enrich American democracy, third parties face two substantial barriers: visibility and Trump.

By design, the Republican and Democratic parties completely overshadow the third party presence. Potent systemic barriers make the presidency nearly unattainable. Chief among them is the problem of visibility. For one, 3P candidates do not get enough media attention. Presidential debates are pivotal events on the campaign trail. The absence of 3P voices on debate nights significantly limits their exposure and influence in the political arena.

The Commission for Presidential Debates (CPD), a joint commission between the Republican and Democratic parties, facilitates presidential debates. It has faced numerous criticisms for requiring that nominees achieve at least a 15% polling threshold to attend debates. Consequently, third parties have been excluded from every presidential debate stage since the CPD’s inception in 1987.

In every election Donald Trump ran, “throwing your vote away” has been a common concern. A Trump victory would be no good for the American people, and many voters fear that voting 3P hurts Biden. The anxiety over Trump’s presidency is a valid reason to be cautious about voting for third parties. Many political outlets share this anxiety, but others believe a wasted vote is a myth.

According to Divided We Fall, the argument is based on a flawed assumption: “Potential third-party voters would otherwise vote for a major party candidate.” Many 3P voters may skip the election altogether, and a substantial 3P candidate could incentivize new voter turnout.

Nubian Message interviewed three students about the third-party sentiment on campus: Anya Tadisina, a fourth-year studying Psychology; Sam McDonald, a third-year studying Computer science; and a third-year Political Science student who wishes to remain anonymous. Their insights could help shape your election decision.

Nubian Message: What comes to mind when you hear “third-party candidates?” Do you feel these parties are adequately represented in our political discussions?

Anya Tadisina: I think about Dr. Cornel West. That might be because my social media feed has definitely sprinkled some of him in there. I haven’t heard anything about any other candidates other than Biden or Trump.

Anonymous: When I first think of 3P candidates, I usually think about the Green Party or the Libertarian Party. On a person-to-person basis, I don’t think we talk about third parties enough. We have only really seen third parties in media be the butt of the joke. [In academia], it’s ironic that they’re overrepresented. People will look to them as this ‘end all, be all,’ as if allowing more parties would fix the system.

NM: Have you ever considered voting for a third-party candidate? If yes, what influenced your decision? If no, under what circumstances would you vote third-party?

Sam McDonald: I would say yes, especially in the earlier years of my voting. I was influenced by a sort of general disdain for the two-party system, which I feel is very limiting to my beliefs. Circumstances allowing me to vote 3P would be that I feel the 3P candidate has a chance of winning the election. Is it viable in the sense that they will actually make progress?

Tadisina: No, not until this election. The first, most obvious reason is if the Republican and Democratic candidates are truly horrendous enough that I must consider a third party. On top of that, if you have a good platform, I will consider you.

NM: How would you change the political system to give third parties a fairer shot at the presidency?

McDonald: I personally would lean towards abolishing parties as a whole. I feel like segregating political ideals into groups doesn’t represent people. Instead, when you vote, you vote for a person. You vote that I want this person to be my president.

Tadisina: Many voting systems exist that I think have the potential to work here. The way to ensure that these parties get actual, fair representation is by admitting that there are so many of them. It should be a government effort in a country that prides itself on freedom of speech and expression so that those people are given the governmental opportunity and funds to have an equal opportunity.

I do not blame anyone who chooses not to vote 3P. Our electoral system expects you to vote against the candidate you dislike, instead of voting for the candidate who best represents you. Addressing these challenges could counteract the systemic barriers to a more inclusive and representative system.

Voting is not just a right. It is a powerful tool for sculpting the world you want to live in. Regardless of who you vote for this November, make sure your choice reflects your values, hopes and vision for the future.