As for my vote making an important difference, let’s get real. I live in California, where Obama is currently polling about 16 points ahead of Romney. No matter what I do, Obama is going to get California’s 55 votes in the Electoral College. My vote simply doesn’t matter even for which way my state goes, let alone the election as a whole. And while California might be an extreme case, one recent study put the odds of a randomly selected voter anywhere in the United States making a difference in the outcome of the election as a vanishingly low 1 in 60 million. If you live in a swing state, they might be as high as 1 in 10 million. By contrast, your odds of being struck by lightning sometime this year are a relatively realistic 1 in 1 million. Bottom line: it will almost never, ever be the case that your vote (or lack thereof) makes the difference between victory and defeat for your candidate.
So is a vote for Johnson a wasted vote? Maybe, but only in the sense that all voting is a waste of time. Personally, I like to think of it a different way. If your vote doesn’t have any real impact on the outcome of the election, then it’s voting for someone you don’t actually believe in for reasons of strategy that’s the real waste. I’m voting for Gary Johnson because he stands for principles that matter to me, and because I want to express my support for him, and those principles, in a semi-public way. If this be wasteful, make the most of it.
Matt Zwolinski is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Diego, and founder of the Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog.