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If you live in Maryland, New York, California, South Dakota, Alaska, Texas, or any of the other around 40 states which are virtually pledged to either Romney or Obama, it's got to feel a little empty putting that mark next to either name. I guess if you really, really like Romney, or think Obama is just swell, it might give you a warm feeling that you're voting for someone you believe in. But what if you just think that one is just not as bad as the other? Or what if you think that you're just voting for the lesser of two evils? And on top of that, what if your vote accomplishes nothing?

It's just depressing.

I'm here to help. My suggestion is, if you live in a state that's not in play, vote for a third party.

Oh great, that's the ultimate wasted vote, right? Third parties have no chance of winning. If I'm going to vote, I might as well back someone who might win.

Well, if your vote doesn't do anything to actually help them to win, you can accomplish the same thing (and save gas) by just posting that you voted for your candidate of choice on Facebook, or just cheering (apathetically) for them as you watch the news. The feeling will be virtually the same, and the impact of your vote will be exactly the same.

But how does voting for someone who can't win help anything?

Well, first, the feeling you get will be just a little warmer. You'll know you voted for someone you mostly believe in, rather than someone you simply fear less. And you don't have to worry that you threw the election, because, when it comes to deciding between Obama and Romney, if you're in those 40-ish non-battleground states, voting for them doesn't matter.

But more importantly, voting third party is the only way you can actually accomplish a real change. Third parties probably won't win a single elector in any state. But there is something they can win in every state: 5% of the popular vote.

OK, so what? You can't become president on 5% of the popular vote. OK, right. Let it go. You can't influence who occupies the White House this time around. But 5% is the threshold that moves a third party to official minor party status. Official minor parties have much improved ballot access and federal funding. And while I oppose federal funding of political parties, I oppose funding only the Republican and Democratic parties even more.

So, if you live in a state that's not even worth a visit from Romney or Obama, because your electors are a foregone conclusion ... are you going to waste your vote?

For information on third party candidates see the following links: Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Virgil Goode, Rocky Anderson.