Sunday, September 30, 2012

Voting and sin, Part 2

A long time ago a friend told me this story, which I will paraphrase, since it's been a while.
A man intends to vote for a third party candidate. One day there's a knock on his door. It is the democratic candidate campaigning. He asks "Will you vote for me?"

"No" the man replies. I intend to vote third party.

The candidate then makes a good case, explaining how, if the man doesn't vote democratic, the republican candidate will win.

The next day the republican candidate comes to the door. "Will you vote for me?"

"No, I intend to vote third party."

The republican candidate then makes the case that if the man doesn't vote republican, the democratic candidate will win.

The next day, there's a knock on the door, and it's the third party candidate. "Will you vote for me?"

"I'd like to" the man replies, "but if I vote for you, either a republican or a democrat will win."
The story has stuck with me all these years because I believe in it.  As a person who tends to lean third party it strikes a chord. Of late I have had (presumably) well meaning people tell me that voting for a third party is a sin (their actual words) because if I do it is the the same thing as voting for candidate "X". Lest you think there's some partisan agenda, I have heard this from both republicans and democrats.

So is it a sin if I don't vote for one of the two major parties? Some would make the case that it is the same as voting for the winning party. Even worse, as I noted in my earlier post (Voting and sin Part 1) as a Catholic I am morally obligated to vote. If I vote for a third party, isn't that the same as not voting? The answer is "no" even if the outcome is the same.

If you think about it, unless I am the one voter who casts the vote that puts one candidate over the other, my vote does not change the outcome anyway. So to claim that my vote somehow "causes" someone to win or lose is false on a specific basis.

But how about in general? I am morally obliged to vote for the candidate whom I feel will do the most good (or least harm). I am not obliged to see that candidate win. As Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”

In my view, you don't get good government by voting for bad government. Voting for a lesser candidate simply because he's one of the big two parties is not voting for good government, it is participating in evil in order to achieve an end that is good. The ends never justify the means. In the general case, a third party candidate won't win only because enough people think he won't win. If we actually vote our (well formed) conscience, this country would be in a lot better shape than it is now.

In short, no, Virginia, it is not a sin to vote for a third party candidate.

[N.B. Part 3 can be found here.]


This is a great post.

I tend to vote 3rd party, and it's not just a protest vote.

I support the candidates I vote for!

Why would I ever vote for someone I don't support simply because they have a better chance of winning?

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