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Do Independent Voters Really Matter?

by James Spurgeon, published

It's 2014 and that means it's a midterm election year. This means the two main parties will head to their respective corners and leave out nearly a third of Americans.

Throughout the primary process... especially the early primaries... candidates tend to move more toward their base so that they can win. This is helped by the fact that the two main parties don't want independent voters to have a say in who their candidates are. This is usually left up to the states to decide for themselves, though. It's not until after the primaries are over that a candidate tries to center their message to attract independent voters because most elections can't be won without them.


There are basically two types of independent voters. The first type is the moderate voter that switches back and forth between the two parties. The other type are the independent voters that can vote Democrat or Republican, but they also are willing to vote for third party and independent candidates. They are not held down to the two-party belief that our political system has tried to force on the voters.

The latter group is where I'm placing my focus. More and more Americans are starting to realize that there are other options out there and are fighting to get them equally included.

As the two main political parties become more polarized and more bent on just serving those voters that vote for them, those that exist in the middle find themselves left out. Third party candidates (and independent candidates) are often left out of debates and are sometimes sued by the major parties in an effort to keep them off the ballot.

The mentality is the same for both Democrats and Republicans. A vote for a third party candidate or an independent candidate is a wasted vote. It's a vote that could have gone to them, and all one needs to do is to express their intent to vote for such a candidate to hear how much they believe this.

The two main parties still control the election process and are actually working together to keep it that way. They want to make sure that the voters don't really have a choice and that the political pendulum only swings two ways.

  • FACT:  Nearly 40% of people do not vote. Major reasons for this decision include the fact that they feel left out and ignored.

But as the parties move further and further apart, the moderate and independents in the middle are getting left out and the country is losing because there aren't any real debates or solutions. It's just the same stuff over and over again. If independents were to rally around one third party or independent candidate, they could make a real play at winning an election.

When it comes to a presidential election, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has imposed a 15% minimum in polls for a third party or independent candidate to be allowed into the debates. This number was made higher after the 1992 presidential election in which Ross Perot had significant support and was included in the debates.

So now when complaints come in that other candidates aren't included, the CPD just points to the rules. What they aren't telling the voters is that they don't even include the other candidates in the polls.

Independent voters are constantly discussed when an election year comes around. Even the media seems to talk about them nonstop. The rest of the time, the parties and even the media could care less.

A question was posed this past Sunday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos about who should be the guest of honor at the State of the Union address. Political contributor Matthew Dowd said it best, "The First Lady should have an empty chair in her box at SOTU to represent millions of Americans forgotten in DC."

So, do independent voters really matter? Of course they do... in the general election. They are the most prized votes to get. But, there is a saying:

"If I'm not good enough to vote for your candidates in the primary, then I guess they don't need my vote in the general election."

Independent voters should listen to that saying. They have more voter power these days than they realize. If they were to unite and exercise their vote, they could shake up the election process. If independents are the deciding vote in elections, then maybe it's time they make a different decision. We really do have more than two options.

Photo Credit: Joe Belanger /

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