The Elephant in The Room

3rd parties under represented in U.S. politics

Lily Middleton, Managing Editor

Many of the Founding Fathers agreed that forming political parties would only do harm, and among them was America’s first President, George Washington. 244 years later, we find ourselves more divided than ever. Democrats and Republicans are in a constant battle for spots in the House of Representatives, Senate, Electoral College, and this year, the presidency. 


However, in the 2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump, 5 million (about 5%) people voted for a 3rd party instead of the traditional Democrat or Republican options. These votes were dispersed between parties such as the Green Party, Libertarian Party, or Constitution Party, which are just the most recognized of the dozens of other parties. 


Republican and Democrat parties are considered the most traditional because they are the only 2 parties recognized in all 50 states. Next is the Libertarian Party which is recognized in 37 states, then the Green Party which is recognized in 26 states, and lastly the Constitution party which is recognized in only 14 states. As of October 30, 2020 7,299 state representatives and senators are either Democratic or Republican, which leaves about 1% of representatives and senators to represent a 3rd party. However, within the Branham community only a small percentage of students identify with a 3rd party.

On November 20, 2017 former Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson said “the largest group of American voters are actually neither Democrats or Republicans” and that “the overwhelming majority would like to have more choices than just the two ‘major’ parties.” With at least 23 possible parties to identify with, 33% identify with Democrats, 29% with Republicans and 34% with an Independent or 3rd Party. This being the first time the Independent/3rd Party vote has surpassed either party since voter registration began in the 1900s.

Despite the large number of voters who are registered to vote as either Independent or 3rd Party, these parties are still largely under represented as a whole, only taking up about 1% of senators and representatives, despite acting on behalf of 29.09% of all registered voters. As of 2020, about 251,000 voters are registered under the Green Party which is represented by presidential candidate Howie Hawkins. Some concern from this party regarded the lack of representation when it came to the presidential debates, which excluded the 3rd parties and solely put a spotlight on Democrats and Republicans. The reason for this is that in order for a candidate to be included in the debates, they must show up on enough ballots for it to be possible to get 270 votes in the Electoral College. Hawkins only appears on the ballot in 29 states, which only allows him to get 351 potential votes, if he were to win all of them.