ST. GEORGE – The room where voting machines lined the wall at the St. George City offices was packed Friday with people who came to cast their votes on the last day of early voting. For many, their vote is their voice, uttering who they believe best represents them and the principles and values they believe in.
Yet what happens when those values are no longer quite represented by the nominees your party of choice chooses?
Do you not so much support the candidate as much as you do the party and its goals? Do you separate the character of the candidate from the policies he or she supports and go from there?
Or do you do that which some say is wasteful and cast a vote for who you want to see elected, and not so much the one who has the best chance of winning?
Depending on the election, it is not uncommon to hear someone say that a vote for Candidate C, a third party candidate, is really a vote for Candidate B who is opposing Candidate A – the candidate you are told you should really be voting for despite personal objections.
This mantra has been chorused by a number of Utah Republicans when it comes to the matter of independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin versus Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“If you vote for a third party candidate, you truly are giving a vote to Hillary Clinton,” Utah Congressman Chris Stewart said last week while visiting the St. George area.
He reaffirmed his stance during a pro-Trump rally in Salt Lake City Tuesday, saying it was time to support the Republican nominee because “the future of the country hangs in the balance.”
Stewart, along with fellow Congressman Jason Chaffetz, both pulled their support for Trump in early October following the release of a recording of an 11-year-old conversation Trump was a part of in which he made lewd comments about women.
Stewart, Chaffetz and other Utah GOP leaders found the recording repugnant and dropped Trump. However, as the weeks wore on both congressmen rejoined the Trump bandwagon, as the alternative – a Clinton presidency – was something they felt Trump has the best chance at blocking.
“Donald Trump needs your vote to counter Hillary Clinton,” Stewart said.
Voting Trump into the White House in order to keep Clinton out is the order of the day for a number of Republican voters.
McMullin has been described by others as a potential spoiler who could ultimately give Utah to Clinton.
Respondents to a question put forth to St. George News readers over Facebook concerning which presidential nominee they supported and their reasons for doing so produced statements similar to Stewart’s.
“There is only going to be one national winner, Trump or Hillary,” reader Lamond La wrote on Facebook. “Support for anyone except Trump is a vote for Hillary.”
Don Arthur Anderson also responded:
I voted for Ted Cruz in the primary due to the fact that he is a proven Constitutional Conservative Republican. But he was overrun by a New York Billionaire and successful business man Donald Trump. Now I am being forced to vote for him in order to keep the Clinton’s (sic) out of the White House and hopefully he will be able to do what he has promised.
While the majority of the responses on the Facebook thread were in favor of Trump, there were those who voiced support for Clinton and McMullin.
Reader Beth Lock Straight wrote she was supporting the Democratic ticket, “Because the American people should have reasonable people representing the constituency.”
Stacey Ewell wrote that her choice was McMullin, because if he wasn’t an option, “I wouldn’t have voted at all.”
However, not everyone agrees with the claim that a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for someone else, or essentially a wasted one. Some voters say they would rather vote for who they believe should be president, and not necessarily who has the best chance of winning or who offends them the least.
“I’m a lifelong Republican. I rarely vote for other candidates in other parties,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said. “This has been a difficult year for me … I can’t (support) Donald Trump. I just did not feel he was my candidate of choice.”
Pike, who endorsed former Ohio Gov. John Kasich during his run for the Republican nomination, has been vocal about his support and vote for McMullin. The decision to support the independent candidate came after meeting him in person, talking with him and researching his positions, Pike said.
“I think it’s important to vote for the candidate we feel best about,” the mayor said. “For me, it’s a message of conscience. It’s a message of what I believe is important to have in a presidential candidate, so I voted for McMullin.”
Pike’s break with the Republican Party’s nominee, whom the Utah Republican Party proper has reaffirmed its support of, hasn’t set well with some fellow Republicans and constituents. A visit to the mayor’s Facebook page bears witness to that as some posts range from questioning to accusatory.
The Democratic contender for Utah’s 2nd congressional district and Stewart’s opponent, Charlene Alberran, said that while she will be voting for Clinton based more on policy issues they have in common, she doesn’t feel a third party vote is a waste.
“I think that, regardless of the political party – Democratic, Republican, independent – you should vote (for the person) you think is the candidate of your choice. It should be about the candidate, not the party.” Alberran said. “I don’t think that’s a wasted vote.”
While leaving the polling station at the St. George City Offices, voter Dale Knuckles said that to him there are only the two candidates in the race.
“If you vote for someone else, it’s a wasted vote,” he said. “Although you may think you’re making a stand, it’s not going to make a difference in the end.”
Another early voter, Richard Knudsen, said that generally people should vote third party if they really want to. However, in relation to this year’s presidential election, voting third-party wasn’t a wise choice, he said.
“Choosing the lesser of the two evils is probably the better choice,” Knudsen said.
The collected voice of the voters nationwide will be heard Tuesday night. The winner may be the Republican, or it may be the Democrat, or perhaps the independent candidate will succeed in throwing a monkey wench into the mix. It remains to be seen.
As some voices rally for support of the traditional candidates, others say to go with the candidate that reflects your principles the most, regardless of the outcome.
“At the end of the day, you as an American must vote for who you think is the best option,” early voter Braden Ray said.
According to Fox 13 News, a new poll released Friday by Y2 Analytics put Trump in the lead at 33 percent with McMullin in second place at 28 percent. Clinton trailed both at 24 percent.
Two other polls released Thursday also put Trump in the lead, with Clinton in second place and McMullin in third. Both polls, produced by Monmouth University and Rasmussen Reports, also stated that a majority of those polled believe Clinton will ultimately take the election.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Polling locations in Washington County can be found through Vote.Utah.gov.
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