On the eve of Election Day, the Yale Political Union held a joint debate with the Yale Debate Association about casting a “protest vote” to demonstrate dissatisfaction with the choice of available candidates.
The debate tried to engage students in discourse about the upcoming election and drew a crowd of roughly 100 students. After a two-hour discussion from students on both sides of the issue, participants rejected the motion to cast a third-party vote by a margin of eight.
“These are two of the biggest debating organizations on campus, and we hadn’t ever done something like this, so we were really looking forward to putting something together to see how our two debating styles interact and get a lot of people interested in politics together in one place,” YDA Development Director Justin Katz ’18 said. “I think it was really fun.”
YPU President Lina Xing ’17 said she was excited about the interaction between the two groups at a time so close to Election Day.
In their prepared speeches, many students voiced concerns about protest voting during the current election cycle.
“On principle, I think it should be fine to cast a protest vote, but — as with almost all things political — I’m viewing it through the lens of this election, and I’m totally against the practicality of casting a protest ballot,” Independent Party member Cameron Wright ’20 said.
Though some vote for third parties based on strategic reasons, YDA member Xavier Sottile ’19 advocated against this strategic voting, instead calling for “tactical voting.”
Sottile called protest votes “irrelevant” and encouraged voters to vote for an establishment candidate. Many members of the YDA also advocated against protest voting, urging students to choose Hillary Clinton LAW ’73.
YDA member Michael Mao ’19 put it bluntly: “The YDA is here to tell you to vote for Hillary Clinton.”
Others felt that a protest vote should always remain a viable option.
Reed Morgan ’17 advocated for third-party strategic voting when voters are faced with two undesirable candidates. He said he plans to vote for Evan McMullin, an independent presidential candidate.
Member of the Federalist Party Julian Assele ’20 said his vote for Clinton was a protest against the Republican Party.
“A protest vote does not have to manifest itself in voting for a third party — it can also manifest in voting for the other party,” Assele said. “I am outraged at the troglodyte who has hijacked my party,” referring to Republican nominee Donald Trump.
While none of the speeches advocated voting for Trump, some students decided to cast votes apart from major party candidates.
Stephan Sveshnikov ’18, for example, decided to write in his father on the ballot, mostly out of disillusionment with the election and democratic process.
“This election in particular is a really good manifestation of the way in which the American people don’t have much of a voice, and what you see is two candidates that nobody likes, and now they’re our only choice,” Sveshnikov said. “I am casting a protest vote, I’m going to write in my dad. I feel like if you pretend like you have a voice even if you don’t, it’s in some way living a lie.”
Despite the wide range of opinions at the debate, most students were cautiously optimistic about the election and their chosen candidates.
A majority of the debate participants were voting for Clinton, echoing an October campus poll conducted by the News, which found that 80.87 percent of respondents supported Clinton for the presidency.
“I feel pretty okay about tomorrow, I mean I’m going to vote for the person who I feel most represents me and most represents the next step for America,” Assele said.
The YDA was founded in 1908.