I'm voting for a third party candidate tomorrow, despite all the lectures people throw at me. My fellow Californians and non-swing staters (in other words, just about everyone), we are ALL wasting our votes. The electoral college renders our votes for president fairly pointless.
In my state, a vote not cast for Obama is not, as you assert, a vote for Romney. Maybe that'd have some validity in Ohio, but there is no chance California will go anything but blue, so why wouldn't I take the opportunity to vote my conscience?
The reason my vote for a third party candidate is less wasted than others' votes for Obama or Romney is because at least it symbolizes a want for real change. While I wouldn't argue that there are no differences between Democrats and Republicans, I would contend that they are frighteningly similar in the ways that should alarm us most. My vote for a third party is a rejection of the two-party system that uses its power to shut out alternative voices. It's a vote for someone who is not bought and controlled by corporations. It's a vote for a candidate who does not feel that constant war should be a foregone conclusion. It's a vote for someone who will actually acknowledge and substantially address global warming.
Will a third party candidate win tomorrow? No. But there needs to be a momentum shift. Some people need to take the leap initially before others will feel comfortable to follow suit. In a sense, my vote is one for a movement that will (hopefully) happen years down the road. How is that a waste?
If you're a non-swing stater and vote for one of the two major candidates, then you're buying into the myth that we need one of them. Ignore the rhetoric. "This is the most important election ever." Yeah, they said that last time. And the time before. And I kept ignoring my values and have little to show for it. Which election will be "important" enough to vote the way I want rather than the way I'm told I have to? At any given point, it may seem like a good time to choose the lesser of two evils, but at what point does it stop? Who wants to look back at their life and say, "I always voted for evil"?
This election, there are actually multiple third party candidates I wish I could cast my vote for. I wrote profiles up for 7 of the most prominent choices for Care2. Check them out, maybe you'll become smitten, too. Together, we can start the process of defeating a corrupt system by using one of that system's flaws - the electoral college - to confidently cast our votes for someone other than the two preordained choices with no fear of consequences.
Or, you know, you could just waste your vote.