Lack of Ballot Access and Electoral Votes Crush Chances of Viable Third Party Candidate
By Rachel Sunshine
Approximately 15% of the voting population has been disheartened by the Democratic and Republican parties for the 2016 General Election Cycle, according to recent polls, that will be voting Libertarian (10%) or Green (5%) as Independent voters. Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party Candidate, and Jill Stein, Green Party Candidate, have been fighting vigorously against the Clinton and Trump campaigns, seeing unprecedented voter support for this year’s presidential election. However, all the hard work, campaigning, and ballot access initiatives will not pay off before Election Day. Despite acting as viable third-party candidates to give hope to those with a sour taste for the two-party system, they are, in fact, not worthwhile or even fully eligible candidates for the current election cycle, due to lack of state ballot access and historically non-existent Electoral College votes.
The Green Party has had significant issues with gaining access to state ballots in more than half the states, with many ballot initiatives requiring court intervention and petitions in states such as Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. According to the Green Party website, they only have access to the general election state ballots where 60% of the population resides, leaving the other 30% still in progress and some 10% still battling it out in courts. Most states have passed the deadlines for candidates to be allowed on the ballot, leaving for the Green Party the only rectifications in the forms of court orders and recommendations to Attorney Generals to allow Jill Stein on the ballot, despite expired deadlines. Below is a map of Green Party Ballot Access for the 2016 Election.
Jill Stein is currently receiving a hefty support of 5% of registered voters, but only 60% of them have equal access to vote her into office. With the inability to vote for her in nearly half the states, it will be very difficult and, historically, unlikely that she would receive even one Electoral College vote, especially as a write-in candidate. Currently, the Green Party also holds no Senate or House seats in Congress, nor do they hold any Governorships or even State Congressional seats.
As it stands, with equal access to only 3% of registered voters that would align with the Green Party, Jill Stein’s candidacy is only just beginning the process of becoming a viable third-party candidate, and it is unlikely that she would succeed in competing against a Democratic or Republican candidate.
Likewise, Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, while on the ballot for a majority of states, has also had issues with ballot initiatives and currently does not have equal ballot access in several states, also making his viability an unrealistic goal for this year’s election. While he has had unprecedented support among registered voters, he also will not be an equally accessible candidate for the entire voting population, making it a near impossibility that he would be elected president. Just as with the Green Party, the presidential seat is not the only election Libertarians are having difficulty with, as currently, there are no Federal Congressional seats in the House or Senate that the party holds. Below is a map of the Libertarian Party’s ballot access, with the Blue states representing in-process ballot initiatives.
Beyond that, since the Libertarian Party’s inception in 1971, there has only been one Electoral College vote for the party, ever. This means that this year, Gary Johnson has a .0002% chance of receiving any Electoral College votes, nevertheless the nearly impossible feat of receiving a majority. The Green Party’s chance of receiving Electoral College votes is just as dismal, if not worse, due to its current standing as a non-viable third-party in many states.
Historically, Libertarian candidates have seen voter turnout in the low to mid hundreds of thousands, with a large jump of support from 523,000 in 2008 for Bob Barr to just shy of 1.276 million voters in 2012 for Gary Johnson. Registered Libertarian voters have increased in the same time by 36%. Currently the Libertarian Party has just 411,000 registered voters, while the Democratic and Republican parties have almost 43 million and 31 million, respectively. The Green Party has approximately 305,000 registered voters. Combined, Libertarian and Green Party registered voters currently equate to just shy of .01% of registered Democrats and Republicans, thus competing with the two-party system is merely symbolic for the 2016 presidential race.
Until full ballot access is gained at the state level, neither party will ever realistically win a Presidential Election. The Electoral College votes as the deciding body on who will be our next President- not the popular election- and it is important for voters to realize that they need to divide their focus between gaining support from individuals, but also to ensure that their Electoral College representatives are willing to vote for and support a third-party candidate. Not only do they need to focus on winning the presidential seat, but they also need to successfully vote in Representatives at the Congressional level. Without the realization that third-party candidates must receive support from the top down within the system, independent voters will continue to face disappoint with each election cycle.
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