When I interviewed the Green Party's Jill Stein about her run for the presidency, I asked her about how would she convince people to move beyond simply picking the lesser of two evils on election day—'people' meaning those who really don't much like the candidates put forward by the DemReps but will end up voting for one of them anyway, likely out of fear that the greater of the two evils will win if they cast a spoiler vote, or because they don't want to feel like they have thrown their vote on someone who has no chance of winning a national election.
Stein said that people need to start voting their beliefs and not their fears, and cited some stats from past elections when third party candidates were running showing that in fact they ended up pulling in independent voters rather equally from other candidates, not just from one as is often suspected.
It was something that really resonated with me. In fact it may have pushed me over the edge towards doing something I used to do—vote based on my beliefs not perceived electability or voting against the greater evil—but had not in recent years.
In 2008 I voted for Obama, out of a belief that there was no way in hell I was going to allow another Republican term in office, plus I thought it was high time that anyone other than another rich white man achieve the presidency. Not to mention that in his campaign I genuinely liked what Obama was saying. Perhaps it didn't go far enough in many areas of policy that I consider to be most important, but it seemed very good.
Four years later I have a much different outlook.
Now, while I certainly fear a Romney presidency as being considerably worse for the environment and many social issues than a second Obama term, I equally am dissatisfied with the notion of continue to perpetuate a broken, corporatist-bordering-on-fascist political system. I believe that we cannot wait any longer to make a hard national push to break out of the DemRep lock on political power, to expand the scope of political discussion.
In other words, it's time to no longer vote our fears, or at least my fears.
That said, it's easier to take this position sitting in New York City, in a state that where Obama leads Romney by a nearly 2-to-1 margin (if the Huffington Post electoral map is accurate, above). I can vote for the Green Party here (and you can too) without fear of having the state tilt towards Romney.
The decision to vote for an opposition party candidate (Green, Justice, Libertarian, Constitution, or someone else) isn't as easily made in states where the balance is so shifted towards one side or the other.
Which all brings me to the title of this post: Where can you vote for the opposition candidate for president you really like, without just pulling votes away from your lesser-of-two-evils candidate?
The way I'm thinking about it, for my favored candidate, Jill Stein, is that a vote for her probably pulls votes from Obama more than Romney. Voting for Rocky Anderson probably does too. Voting for Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party probably pulls from Romney, as does voting for the Libertarian's Gary Johnson.
So, if you really want to vote for Stein, but consider Obama to be better than Romney, where can you vote for her safely, and where should you perhaps still hold your nose for now and continue the lesser evil strategy?
As of 4:15pm on the Monday before the election:
Obama solidly has Hawaii, California, Washington, New Mexico, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and all of New England save New Hampshire in his pocket. You can safely vote your beliefs in any of these states.
Likewise, Romney has a solid hold in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Not voting for either Romney or Obama in these states isn't likely to change Romney's lead.
Currently there are no states that are just leaning towards Romney, but there are several leaning towards Obama (Oregon, Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio). In any of these it's conceivable that your third party vote could help sway things away from Obama—particularly in Ohio, where Obama has a very slim lead, and where there are 18 electoral votes at stake.
Things are equally dicey in Florida, where it's a dead heat for that state's 29 electoral votes. Ditto in North Carolina and Virginia, with a combined 28 electoral votes. Colorado is nearly a dead heat, with 9 electoral votes at stake. New Hampshire is nearly a dead heat, as well, but it has only four electoral votes. If I lived in any of these states I would not be voting my beliefs, but rather voting strategically against the person I didn't want to win.
I don't want to tell you the way to vote. But what I will say is this: I do believe that the two-party US political system is fully broken, both parties being in the grips of corporate and military masters, and that the time to begin repairing that is now—repairing it by expanding the scope of what can be discussed politically, in all directions, and doing that by bringing third, fourth, and fifth (more) political parties to the table, ensuring that all parties can compete on equal intellectual footing on their policies.
You personally may not yet be at this point in your thought, and perhaps maybe never will (fair enough...), but that's where I'm at right now.