A Guide to Third (3rd) Party Candidates

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #122 | By: Courtney Denning | February 16, 2024
Featured Photo taken from: www.bet.com

Duverger’s Law states that political systems which only elect one leader will only have two main parties. This is the case in the United States, where most voters pick between the Democratic or Republican candidates for single seats, whether they be in Congress, the Presidency, or local positions.

Despite this prominent dichotomy, independent and third party politicians have a long history of impactful campaigns even though they rarely win. Many people attribute independent Ross Perot with Bush’s loss in 1992. Then in 2000, Ralph Nader ran as a Green Party candidate, likely taking votes away from Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, a popular environmentalist.

Because of the controversiality of both the Democratic and Republican frontrunners in the 2024 presidential elections, many voters are looking towards a third option.


Robert F. Kennedy, Jr originally announced his run for the presidency as part of the Democratic primary, but withdrew and registered as an independent candidate in October of 2023. His campaign slogan capitalizes his position as a third party choice, saying “Declare Your Independence.”

Currently, the only way to have your name appear on the ballot is to be tied to a political party, and independent candidates must be written in by voters. Kennedy is currently working to create his own political party, “We the People,” in order to more easily get on ballots across the country.

Chase Oliver is a member of the Libertarian Party who is running for president. In 2022, he ran for Senate in Georgia against Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker, garnering enough votes to require a run-off election.

Like Kennedy, Oliver is advocating for structural changes to the voting process that would allow third party candidates to be more viable, strongly backing Ranked Choice Voting.

Jill Stein, of the Green Party, played an important role in the 2016 election and is running for president once again. Some supporters of Hillary Clinton believe that Stein is the reason Trump won the presidency, splitting the progressive vote.

Stein has described her campaign as offering “a choice for the people outside the failed two-party system.”

Cornel West is running for president independently of any political party. He describes the current political system as a “corporate duopoly” and has a spreadsheet on his campaign website detailing his path to getting his name on the ballot.

West feels that we are currently in a “moral bankruptcy” as a nation. His campaign centers around the poor and working classes, claiming that they can only be truly helped from outside of the two party system.

Because of our current political system, it is unlikely that any of these candidates will get the votes needed to become president. However, they each represent a growing dissatisfaction with the two-party system and rising efforts to change it. Like past elections, a large push towards one of these candidates has the potential to change which of the major parties’ candidates ultimately win.

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