Sorry, Not Sorry: I Voted For Gary Johnson In A Swing State

Photo courtesy of Nicole Nesrsta.
Nicole Nesrsta decided to support a third-party candidate this year.
Nicole Nesrsta thinks voting for the lesser of two evils is a waste.

That’s why the 28-year-old didn’t cast her ballot for Hillary Clinton (who she has never been fond of) or Donald Trump (who, “as a human,” she cannot select). Instead, Nesrsta, who lives in the crucial swing state of Florida, opted to vote for thirty-party candidate Gary Johnson.

“I was, like, this can’t be it, these can’t be my only options,” she said. “When I saw Johnson’s Facebook page, I felt like he was a viable option.”

Polls have shown Clinton’s lead over Trump shrinking in key battleground states like Florida in the wake of FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress, which resurrected the Democratic nominee’s email scandal in the final weeks of the campaign.

Given the high stakes, supporters of both major-party nominees fear that a vote for Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s pick, or the Green Party’s Jill Stein could siphon votes away from their candidate of choice.

For Democrats, the scenario brings back bad memories of the 2000 election, when third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader was widely blamed for taking votes away from Democratic candidate Al Gore, whose razor-thin loss in Florida handed the election to George W. Bush.

I cannot vote for Trump. It has nothing to do with my being a woman or a woman who is also a survivor of sexual assault, either. I just cannot vote for him as a human.

Nicole Nesrsta, Gary Johnson supporter
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But those concerns didn’t stop Nesrsta from proudly casting her ballot for Johnson during early voting last month. And she probably won't be alone. Polling suggests that 20% of voters aren't supporting either major-party candidate — the highest in the past three presidential elections. And Johnson could earn the largest share of the vote of any Libertarian candidate in history.

Nesrsta now feels secure in casting what some have called a “wasted” vote, or what Sen. Bernie Sanders has called a protest vote. But it took time for the marketing manager to come to her decision. She had to grapple with the conservative views instilled in her during her childhood in the “reddest of the red states,” just outside of Waco, TX, and her adolescence in the Florida panhandle, where she lived from elementary through high school.

Though some of her family and friends are voting for Trump, she no longer feels bound by societal pressure to always vote for the Republican candidate.
Photo courtesy of ABC.
Gary Johnson is the Libertarian nominee for president.
“I didn’t meet a single Jewish person until college, that’s how simple my world was while I was growing up,” she says. “But as I experienced more things, it just expanded my worldview. I met gay people for the first time and people of all different religions and races and that opened my eyes up a lot. My view on abortion changed quite a bit. I started traveling globally a lot more and I started seeing things with a much wider lens.”

Over the years, Nesrsta’s political beliefs evolved. She voted for John McCain in 2008 with a clear conscience, but found herself conflicted four years later. She felt apathetic toward President Barack Obama and uneducated about Mitt Romney, so she abstained from voting entirely.

This time around, circumstances were very different.

“I thought Trump was a stunt and was hoping for Jeb Bush to win the nomination,” she said. “I cannot vote for Trump. It has nothing to do with my being a woman or a woman who is also a survivor of sexual assault, either, I just cannot vote for him as a human.”

I just feel like the way Hillary got there is very corrupt. I’m ready for something different than someone who was born and raised in the political system.

Nicole Nesrsta, Gary Johnson supporter
She also doesn’t like Clinton, citing her 30 years of experience in politics as a downside.

“I just feel like the way Hillary got there is very corrupt,” she says. “I’m ready for something different than someone who was born and raised in the political system.”

In contrast, she finds Johnson refreshing, despite his making a few gaffes during his campaign.

Most famously, when asked in an interview what he would do about Aleppo, the Syrian city at the center of the refugee crisis, Johnson responded: “What is Aleppo?”

That answer earned him furious critiques, but Nesrsta didn’t find it appalling. Instead, she says, this is far from the first time that a high-profile politician has made a geography mistake.

“I just kept thinking, If that was Trump, he’d just continue to pretend that he knew what it was,” she says, “But I like the fact that Johnson admitted to not knowing something. That’s rare and he got further clarification before answering.”

Nesrsta knows Johnson won’t win the presidency, but she hopes that her vote — and those of other third-party supporters like her — will show the country that the two-party system is broken.

“You should vote for whatever you want your voice to say. Everyone keeps saying your voice can’t be heard if you don’t vote,” she said. “So I wanted my vote to say that we need to have other options.”

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