Since 2004, Reason has surveyed its staffers on how they plan to vote in national elections. We do this in a spirit of transparency. There is a pernicious idea that if journalists don’t disclose their biases and preferences, then perhaps they don’t have any. But we think it’s better if the people who read, watch, and listen to Reason know where our contributors are coming from, even by the imperfect metric of electoral preferences.
Traditionally, this survey yields a high percentage of nonvoters and Libertarian Party voters, and 2020 is no exception on either score. Our Democratic and Republican voters typically describe themselves as reluctant backers, seeing their candidate as a lesser of two evils; Joe Biden’s showing this year is similar to Barack Obama’s among staffers in 2008.
As each Election Day draws near, Reason receives a bumper crop of emails, tweets, and comments. This year, each day’s harvest includes notes accusing us of being in the tank for Trump and just as many accusing us of stumping for Biden.
Reason is not on anybody’s side in this election or any other. This is, in part, because we are published by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and therefore don’t endorse particular candidates. But it’s also because we don’t think one party or person ever fully embodies the things that are important to us, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law. (As our election-issue cover stories make clear, both of the major candidates fail on that front in important ways.) We continue to look outside of politics for meaning and hope.
Nothing in what follows should be construed as an official endorsement of any candidate or cause. These are the personal views of individual participants and not the institutional views of Reason or Reason Foundation. Legalese aside, we hope what follows is interesting and informative. —Katherine Mangu-Ward
Who do you plan to vote for this year? Jo Jorgensen. Some of my libertarian friends plan to vote for Biden because they view Trump to be a unique existential threat to liberty. I think that underappreciates the audacious scope of the Biden agenda, which would bring a daily onslaught of new initiatives and regulations from every corner of the federal bureaucracy aimed at controlling the personal and economic choices we make on virtually everything. These ideas aren’t just rhetoric from a blowhard. Depending on what happens in the Senate, they’re likely to become law, undermining economic growth and moving us backward on First and Second Amendment protections, school choice, property rights, consumer freedom, campus due process, worker freedom, energy choices, and so much more. Expect endless new opportunities for adversarial encounters between citizens and law enforcers on every level. Jo Jorgensen is the only candidate who champions liberty and reflects my views.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? Jimmy Carter in 1980, my first vote. That was the most important election of our lifetime, of course. My lefty friends and I viewed Reagan to be a unique existential threat to America. I should have voted for Ed Clark.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? Jo Jorgensen. I have no problem with her at all. I hope she wins!
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? John Kerry. I’ll never vote for a major party candidate ever again.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I am currently not registered to vote in Virginia, where I live. If I change that before the election, I will vote for Jo Jorgensen—unless I believe there is a chance that Joe Biden will somehow fail to win Virginia, in which case I will vote strategically and reluctantly for Biden.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? I can’t imagine thinking a single vote is valuable enough to spend time regretting.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? No one. Both Trump and Biden are awful enough that I can’t imagine voting for either. While I wish Jo Jorgensen well, the cost of figuring out which state I’m still registered in and how exactly I’m supposed to cast my ballot during COVID exceeds any benefit I’d get from supporting her doomed presidential bid.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? My first vote was in local Boise elections in 2011, where I recall ticking the box for a bunch of city council candidates I knew nothing about. It was an irresponsible thing to do, and I was rewarded when the council shortly thereafter passed a sweeping smoking ban. If I could do it over, I would have stayed home that election as well.
ELIZABETH NOLAN BROWN
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I just registered to vote in my home state, Ohio, where I’m living for the next few months. I plan to cast a ballot for Jo Jorgensen and Spike Cohen this November. As libertarians seem to have less and less in common with either Democrats or Republicans, I’ve started to shed earlier apathy about Libertarian Party politics and become more convinced that we do need a viable electoral vehicle of our own.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? This will be my first time voting in a presidential election since 2008, when I voted for Barack Obama. I think that vote was a desperate plea for an end to the Bush era more than anything else. Obama’s presidency did that in some important ways, and failed to in many more. I don’t regret that vote, but the Obama era did become a good lesson in what “hope and change” looks like in practice.
Criminal Justice Reporter
Who do you plan to vote for this year? Joe Biden. The nationalists said the libertarian-conservative consensus is dead, and I take them at their word. Also, Stephen Miller is a white nationalist.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? I haven’t voted in a presidential election since 2004. I guess I would take that one back and not vote, because I was young and dumb instead of old and dumb.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I will cast my ballot for Joe Biden in Michigan, a swing state, because there is no bigger libertarian cause right now than to prevent Donald J. Trump from getting re-elected. He is a proto-authoritarian who digs dictators such as the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte and who glorifies state violence.
Trump launched his first election campaign by stoking racial hatreds, and any hope that the responsibility of governance would temper him was dashed as he dehumanized immigrants and demonized opponents. His zero-tolerance border policies have resulted in unspeakable human rights abuses, his economic nationalism is no better for the cause of free markets than Biden’s supposed socialism, and his fiscal irresponsibility has been worse than his predecessors’. But his most dangerous trait by far is his open contempt for the institutions that check executive power and hold it accountable. Those institutions have contained some of his worst impulses in his first term. They may not be able to withstand another four years of continued assaults.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? If memory serves, I have voted in three presidential elections since I obtained naturalization: for Republican George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004 (against John Kerry), for Libertarian Gary Johnson in 2012, and for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 (against Donald Trump). Of those, the only one I know I’ll never regret is the one for Johnson.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I will be voting for the Libertarian Party’s Jo Jorgensen. I will candidly admit that I spent much of my 2019 preparing to vote for certain Democratic candidates should they have won the party’s nomination. In the end, Jo Jorgensen’s principles and empathetic outreach during the emotional yet important Black Lives Matter moment solidified my desire to vote my conscience and not my disappointment with the current president, particularly his poor public treatment of important black figures and his failure to stand firmly on Charlottesville when his condemnations would have made the most impact.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? The 2016 election was the first presidential election in which I qualified to vote. Since I am satisfied with my decision to vote for Gary Johnson over some of the most-hated presidential candidates in modern history, I would probably change the vote I cast for Sen. Rand Paul in the Republican presidential primary. I was excited to vote for the Kentucky senator because of his stance on criminal justice reform, but I was extremely disappointed to see that strong legacy shelved to confirm, of all people, Jeff Sessions.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I don’t vote.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? Never having voted, I have no regrets.
Editor at Large
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I’m voting for Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate, because she comes closest to representing my political views.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? I would not change any of my votes. In 1984, the first presidential election in which I could vote, I voted for Walter Mondale because I admired his honesty that he would raise taxes to reduce the deficit, which was projected to be the then-massive sum of $184 billion, or about 5 percent of GDP. Since 1988, I have voted for the Libertarian candidate, even when I did not particularly care for the nominee. It’s far more important to me to vote for a third-party candidate, doing whatever small thing I can to help support a wider array of voices in national politics, than to vote for a winning candidate.
Editor in Chief
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I don’t vote, and I won’t this year, even though I am reliably informed by my Instagram and Twitter feeds that this is the most important election of my lifetime. Again.
I do, however, plan to complain, both pre- and post-election. Because that is my job as a political journalist and my duty as a citizen. It’s important to hold elected officials accountable when they screw up—and no matter who wins in 2020, he’s going to screw up for sure—but a trip to the ballot box every couple of years is a largely ineffective way to do that.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? I am not sure whether I have ever voted. If I did, it would have been because I succumbed to peer pressure in 1998, the first year I was eligible. If given the opportunity to travel back in time, I would pop into 1998 to be sure that I did not vote in that election, largely to secure my status as a gold star nonvoter. And then I would kill Hitler, I suppose.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I’ve come to think of voting as the equivalent of those fake steering wheels on tourist boats that exist to keep children busy with the illusion that they’re steering the ship. Since I have no interest in wasting my time, being laughed at by those in power who are wise to the scheme, or helping legitimize a pointless and fundamentally corrupt enterprise, my mail-in ballot and I will be staying home.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? I regret ever having registered to vote. I did so for the first time as a teenager in my home state of New Jersey at the urging of my neighbor, who was running for reelection to our town council. I haven’t lived in the state for over 15 years, and despite my best efforts to have my information removed from local voter rolls and databases, I still get several phone calls every week at 7 a.m. PST from New Jersey political campaigns. I sometimes wonder how much of the spam I have to trawl through every day can be traced back to that original sin of sharing my contact information with the government.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? Political representation is illegitimate in theory and a sham in practice. I don’t plan to vote for anyone.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? In 2016, I took the time to research every candidate for every position on the ballot. What a waste of time that was.
Director of Transportation Policy
Who do you plan to vote for this year? Because I live in Florida, likely again to be a swing state, I am planning to vote for the lesser evil, though the Libertarian Party candidate would be far better. But our next president will be either Biden or Trump, an even worse choice than Hillary or Trump (and last time I proudly voted for Gary Johnson and William Weld).
This time around, both parties have been transformed. The Democrats are a far more collectivist party whose environmental, transportation, spending, and judicial policies would have devastating long-term effects on this country. The Republicans have become a populist, anti-trade, anti-immigrant, and big-spending party. But despite wishing the Republicans would receive a massive shock that would return them to a more free market approach, I will select GOP/Trump as the lesser evil. This is because of the need to continue with a Supreme Court that upholds the written Constitution, but also because of better environmental, regulatory, and transportation policies and staffing of the relevant agencies.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? I don’t regret any previous presidential votes, which have been mostly for the Libertarian Party’s candidates, beginning with a write-in vote for John Hospers in 1972.
Deputy Managing Editor
Who do you plan to vote for this year? While I would like to see a President Jo Jorgensen, I will settle for not having to live another four years under President Donald Trump. I will cast my first ever vote for president for Joe Biden in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.
I think Trump is a symptom, not the root cause, of our current dysfunction. I absolutely do not support the Democratic Party writ large. Democratic management of the city of Philadelphia, where I live, is shockingly bad.
But as much as I fear what the Democrats might be able to do tomorrow, what Trump has done the last four years concerns me more. He appears to have no ideology, no patience, and very little wisdom, and I do not get the sense that he understands or appreciates what I love about America. That may all be true of Biden too—I do not know his heart—but the fact that all the Biden voters I know are holding their nose when they punch in his name hopefully means his leash will be shorter.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? I voted for the first time in the 2018 midterms, and I do not regret using that opportunity to rebuke Republican xenophobia.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I’m voting for Jo Jorgensen and Spike Cohen for president and absolutely no other human beings on the ballot whatsoever. As is typical here in California, the ballot initiatives are much more important and impactful than the candidates.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? I don’t think I’ve voted for a major candidate who has actually won since Bill Clinton’s second term, so I don’t really have to contend with buyer’s remorse.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I am a true undecided: I’ve been vacillating between sitting out this election, as I did in 2016, or voting for Joe Biden. The strongest argument for the latter choice is that it’s an opportunity to support the repudiation of both Trumpism and the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wing of the Democratic Party. That’s a hell of a good value for a single ballot.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? I have generally abstained whenever I haven’t seen a clear reason to support one candidate or the other, so I can’t think of a vote I would change if I could.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I might have voted for Joe Biden if he chose Tulsi Gabbard as his veep, but he didn’t, so I’m voting for Jo Jorgensen. I wish Justin Amash had opted to run, because I would prefer the Libertarian Party to have a candidate with political experience and name recognition. That said, Jorgensen recognizes that the government’s coronavirus response “has been the biggest assault on our liberties in our lifetime,” which is more than sufficient to earn my vote in these insane times.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? I voted for Gary Johnson in 2016, but if I could do it over I might be tempted to cast a write-in vote for David French, just as a screw-you to the Drag Queen Story Hour alarmists—and also as penance for all these tongue–in–cheek Twitter jokes.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I do not plan to vote for anyone, for reasons that Katherine Mangu-Ward laid out in her 2012 feature, “Your Vote Doesn’t Count.” But also because I regret the one presidential vote I did cast.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? I have voted in a national election only once, in 2004, and thus I have only one possible vote to change. But I would probably change it, if I could. The reason I voted in 2004 was mostly because I failed to vote in 2000—when I was a Florida resident living out of state while attending college. You may remember there was some fuss about Florida during the 2000 presidential election, including a fair amount of concern over absentee ballots. So I felt some pressure not to allow that to happen again. I voted for George W. Bush. That didn’t go so well either. If I had to do it over again, I would decline to vote.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? Texas has stringent requirements for absentee ballots, notwithstanding COVID-19, so I may not vote at all. But assuming I do, the choice is obvious: Jo Jorgensen. Given the odds, voting is best viewed as an expressive activity rather than an attempt to influence the outcome, and I have no interest in expressing whatever horrifying message would be implied by a vote for Trump or Biden (although I am morbidly curious to see what a second term for Trump would mean).
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? After toying with Gary Hart, I for some reason ended up voting for Walter Mondale in New York’s 1984 Democratic primary (the only time I’ve been a registered Democrat). I was young and ignorant.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I live in Maryland, where trying to have an impact on which candidate carries the state is the ultimate act of futility. I will cast a protest vote for Jo Jorgensen, which is also futile but doesn’t feel as dirty.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? As a high school senior, I was eligible to vote in the 1988 primaries but skipped them. Given which candidate I was rooting for at the time, this was a shame: I lost my chance to be the only Reason staffer who has cast a ballot for Jesse Jackson.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? It makes me a little queasy, but I’ll be voting for Joe Biden, primarily for three reasons: (1) A feeble president Biden seems like an opportunity to erode the power and glamour of the dangerous cult of the presidency and also push socialists, nationalists, and identitarians back to the margins, creating space for a more libertarian-friendly coalition to emerge. (2) Trump was an even more selfish and incompetent leader than I thought he’d be, he seems willing to stoke chaos to hold onto power, and I’m sick of talking and hearing about him. (3) The Libertarian Party doesn’t have a clear electoral strategy or even sense of purpose and continually seems to miss golden opportunities.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? I’ve always voted for Libertarian presidential candidates and never felt bad about that. I just hope I don’t regret my first lesser-of-two-evils vote this year.
Editor at Large
Who do you plan to vote for this year? Jo Jorgensen. If it was going to be close in my state, I might have considered holding my nose and voting for the person most likely to supplant the eminently fireable incumbent. But New York has chosen the Democrat by at least 16 percentage points in every presidential election since the end of the Cold War, so I prefer to add votes to the party that aligns much more with my values.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? In 1988, my first election, I lived in the swing state of…California? (That’s how old I am.) I did not remotely like or even take seriously Michael Dukakis, but I had whipped myself up in a collegiate fever to believe that George H.W. Bush was the real CIA-fabricated Dark Lord and must be stopped at all costs. Silly in retrospect. I vowed then to never vote for candidates I actively dislike, a commitment I’ve mostly kept to since.
Who do you plan to vote for this year? I live in New York City, so my vote thankfully does not matter one iota in an ocean of progressives. I will not vote this year, since Jorgensen has squandered her opportunity to win libertarianism new converts––despite this botched pandemic reminding us that politicians are incompetent, self-serving, or both. Trump has been a tremendously terrible president if you care about immigration and free trade, and Biden is just a pliant, unprincipled career politician (and former drug warrior) who will do nothing for freedom. No to everyone.
If you could change any vote you cast in the past, what would it be? I am very young and have few voting-related skeletons in the closet. I’ll keep it that way by not voting!