Under current presidential election laws, America is a de facto two-party political system. No third-party candidate has even come close to the presidency since Millard Fillmore with the Whigs more than 150 years ago. (And the Whigs don't really count -- more on that in a bit.)
In today's Seeker Daily report, John Iadarola discusses third party candidates and wonders aloud: Does a third party have any chance of winning this year's election?
Spoiler alert! As a practical matter, the answer is no. And that's a scary situation, considering that nearly half of voters would consider a third-party nominee in this year's election, according to recent polls. Democrats and Republicans have an effective political duopoly in the U.S. -- with presidential elections, anyway -- and it's all perfectly legal.
Election laws, as they're set up now, essentially prevent any third party candidate from ever reaching the White House. One major block is that Democrats and Republicans are automatically listed on the ballot in all 50 states, while third party candidates need to individually organize petitions and collect thousands of signatures.
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Third party organizations also don't get federal election funding unless they received at least five percent of the vote in the previous election. Additional barriers apply, as well. For instance, in this year's election, Green Party candidate Jill Stein would be required to raise at least $100,000 across at least 20 states in order to receive access to the federal Presidential Election Campaign Fund.
The most significant obstacle for third party candidates is America's "first past the post" voting system. You can get more details on that here, but the upshot is that the system invariably leads to two-party majority in which voters only two political parties have any realistic shot at the presidency. It's not about who you want to vote for; it's about who is on the ballot.
That works out nicely for the two major parties -- and keep in mind that the Whigs were a major party 150 years ago. The current Democrat/Republican duopoly emerged just after Fillmore's administration.
In any case, there's little chance that election laws will ever be changed. It's a vicious cycle: Democrats and Republicans dominate legislative bodies at all levels of government, and those legislative bodies make the laws that govern elections. Absent some radical change to how the U.S. elects its public officials, third-party candidates will remain on the outside looking in.
-- Glenn McDonald
Wall Street Journal: More Americans Consider Third-Party Options
Washington Post: So you want an independent candidate for president? You're running out of time.
Rolling Stone: Green Party's Jill Stein on Why Bernie Sanders Should Go Third-Party
The Atlantic: Will U.S. Conservatives Mount a Third-Party Challenge If Trump Is the Nominee?