Some Las Crucens hope third-party votes will help change the system

Third-party voters

Billy Huntsman /

Christine Gilbert and Andrew Cuellar of Las Cruces, left, voted for Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson on Tuesday. Josh and Sarah Cuellar, right, voted for Evan McMullin, presidential nominee for the Better for America Party.

Sarah and Josh Cuellar of Las Cruces don’t think third-party presidential candidate Evan McMullin has much chance of winning this election. They voted Tuesday for McMullin, Josh said, in “active protest” of the major-party options.

Josh said he “didn’t find a place” with Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton. Sarah agreed.

“There’s just not much in either candidate that represents us at all,” she said.

The two voted just after polls opened at 7 a.m. at Good Samaritan Social Center in Las Cruces. Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins reported a busy Election Day countywide, but there was no line at Good Samaritan when Josh and Sarah voted.

How many New Mexicans reject Clinton and Trump in favor of third-party choices won’t be clear until after election results are tallied. While 2016 may be the best year for third-party candidates in two decades, recent polls have shown support in New Mexico for Libertarian Gary Johnson slipping and support for all other third-party candidates combined, including McMullin, hovering around 1-3 percent.


Josh’s brother Andrew Cuellar and his fiancée, Christine Gilbert, also voted for a third-party presidential candidate at Good Samaritan early Tuesday. But they opted to support Johnson.

Christine once considered herself a Republican but now calls herself an independent. “We don’t agree with either Trump or Hillary, and we didn’t want to get locked into having to choose one or the other,” she said.

Christine said she hopes this election will give third-party options more exposure.

“There’s been a lot of talk of changing our two-party system, and there’s a lot of people that are really frustrated with it,” Christine said. “Up until this point, I hadn’t really thought it was a possibility to change.”

Of all the presidential candidates on the ballot this year other than Clinton and Trump, Johnson has the greatest chance of helping build a more influential third party, if polls are to be believed. If Johnson wins 5 percent of the vote in New Mexico, the Libertarian Party has the ability to attain major-party status in the state and gain the same easier ballot access that Democrats and Republicans enjoy.

McMullin’s brand-new Better for America Party, meanwhile, is largely funded by an ally of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, The New York Times reported in June 2016. It’s part of an effort on the right to stop Trump from becoming president.

“Part of the reason I voted third-party is to give a voice to other options,” Josh said.

Sarah said she believes third parties will become more prominent in the United States. The two major parties don’t represent younger voters, she said – adding that “the majority of our close friends feel similarly.”

Christine said she and her fiancé are nervous about the future, given that Trump or Clinton will probably win the election. While they have faith that God will protect the country, “that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a responsibility to be wise about how we vote,” she said.

All four young people spoke about the importance of character and morals. Sarah said she and her husband don’t always agree with McMullin, but they do more often than they agree with Clinton or Trump.

McMullin’s proposals, from his website, include creating a more fair and simple tax code; encouraging business innovation; repealing Obamacare and replacing it with “a more streamlined, pro-market approach to insurance;” working to reduce unintended pregnancies and encourage adoption; and protecting “the rights of law-abiding gun-owners.”

Most importantly, Sarah said, McMullin has the “professionalism” she thinks Trump and Clinton lack.

Andrew and Christine agreed that character matters.

“Their conduct and how they behave in general as a person is really important, because you can say anything when you’re running to get people’s vote,” Christine said.

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