Democrat or Republican – how do you choose between one extreme and the other? Well, for some, a choice of one over the other makes sense, but for others, another option exists. Think back to when you were first registering to vote: yes, you had the options of Democrat, Republican, and one more major choice, an Independent.
Voters registered as Independents receive all major party ballots for elections. While they cannot choose to use all available ballots, these “unaffiliated” voters are able to select which party they most agree with each election season and vote using the related ballot. Theoretically, this flexibility allows voters to remain open-minded and moderate in elections as they are able to flip flop between parties as they choose, depending on which party’s candidates the voter most supports that year. However, is this moderate mindset actually achieved? Are independents simply voters without political interest? What is the truth behind an “unaffiliated” status?
According to a PEW study done in 2018, 38% of voters are Independents. Out of this 38%, more than half are under the age of 50, showing that Independents are generally younger than the majority of affiliated Democrats or Republicans. An independent status can be appealing to younger voters who are still new to the complicated world of politics and have yet to develop a passion for any specific party. However, what about the other 37% of Independents who have lived through multiple elections and have had the time to study the political scene? In an article by CNN journalist, Christina Zdanowicz, Independent voters listed reasons for their unaffiliated status outside of an inability to decide between parties. These ranged from a dislike of labels to honoring the American spirit, and a major theme amongst most responses was the availability of free-thinking.
Yes, a majority of current Independents are voters without strong political opinions (according to the 2018 PEW study), but a minority have spoken up and voiced their need to question the histories, actions, and leadership abilities of candidates each year and not be automatically tied to one party over another. While traditional American values have been drastically changing recently, one thing that has tied us together is our cry for freedom. What true, registered Independents have found is a possible way to reintroduce moderacy into our political system and reduce extreme viewpoints that split our country. What could be achieved is freedom from the extremes and freedom of the mind.
I didn’t write this piece to split us up further, but to bring to light another option for voting this fall. If an Independent registration intrigues you, I encourage you to not just take my word for it, but to venture further into the reasons for an “unaffiliated” status and to form your own thoughts. If you choose to stick with a specific party affiliation, thank you for diversifying U.S. party affiliations and for doing your part even by registering to vote. This winter’s election will determine the fate of our country for the next four years – for me, that’s the entirety of my time in university – so be responsible, do your research, and vote this November!