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Election spoiler alert?

A look at this presidential campaign’s third-party options

Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen Facebook/Jo Jorgensen

Election spoiler alert?

Elias Gannage, a 23-year-old voter in Virginia, said he plans to vote straight-ticket Republican—except for the top of the ballot. An evangelical Christian, Gannage said he feels he can’t vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden because of his support for abortion. But he also said he can’t vote for President Donald Trump, whom he called an “immoral candidate.”

“What I’m communicating to my own party is that [their candidate] is not good enough,” Gannage said.

For most Americans, the 2020 election presents a binary choice between the two major parties. But a number of third-party and independent candidates want to give disenchanted voters other options.

Third-party candidates get little attention unless they act as “spoilers.” But voters like Gannage push back against the notion that a vote for a third party steals from one of the major candidates. They say their votes send an important message of dissatisfaction with the options the two major parties have presented.

A quick scan of Ballotpedia shows more than 30 third-party candidates on the ballot in at least one state across the country. In addition to Democratic nominee Joe Biden and incumbent President Donald Trump, two other candidates, Jo Jorgensen and Howie Hawkins, have made it on enough state ballots to theoretically win at least 270 Electoral Colleges votes, the number needed to become president.

Jo Jorgensen is the first woman the Libertarian Party has nominated for president. The 63-year-old Clemson University psychologist has said the government should shrink to half its size, end U.S. involvement in foreign wars, and reform the justice system. The Libertarian Party selected Jeremy “Spike” Cohen, a tech entrepreneur, as its vice presidential nominee.

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins is an environmental crusader who calls himself the “original Green New Dealer.” Hawkins did not get on the ballot in as many states as his predecessor Jill Stein did in 2016.

Other third-party candidates range from a former child actor to a coal executive. Perhaps most well-known among them is rapper Kanye West, who has dubbed his party the “Birthday Party.” West did not get on enough state’s ballots to have a chance to win, but he has insisted his bid is serious.

Former child actor Brock Pierce is running as an Independent candidate. Pierce, who starred in the Disney movies The Mighty Ducks (1992) and First Kid (1996), said he did not expect to win, but he wants the House of Representatives to decide the next president. In his ideal scenario, he would win enough states to make sure neither Trump nor Biden gets a majority of Electoral College votes.

In 2016, two third-party candidates, Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson, won more votes than Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

“It’s not that third party candidates are taking away votes from the major two parties. It’s more that the major two parties are not putting forth candidates that people believe in,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a 40-year-old voter in Maryland. Lewis typically votes Republican but said he couldn’t stomach either of the candidates come November. He plans to vote for Jorgensen.

“In the past, I would have defined myself as a single-issue voter, but I thought, if the candidate is right on being pro-life, they should be right in other ways,” Lewis said. He said Trump had lost his vote due to his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his attitude towards racial unity.

Gannage said he isn’t sure yet who he will vote for or possibly write in, but he believes it’s important to show up and participate: “True change will happen not from the top down but from the bottom up.”

Harvest Prude

Harvest is a former political reporter for WORLD’s Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate.


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