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Study Notes

Third Party

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

A third party in the politics of the United States is any party that is not either the Republicans or the Democrats. The definition can be expanded to include independent politicians who are not affiliated with a party at all.

Traditionally third parties in American politics are not electorally successful and may pick up a handful of local council seats. This is typically down to the engrained two party system that is present throughout the US, reinforced through the single-seat plurality voting system.

Another reason that third parties face electoral difficulties are ballot access and debate rules. Third parties often face difficulties in securing the registrations fees or meeting the petition requirements in order to run. Running on from this debate rules often exclude third party candidates as well. Rules continually change in this area as to whether or not third party candidates can be included. Currently every candidate to be considered for a debate must be on enough state ballots to win an Electoral College majority and poll a clear 15% above their nearest rival.

In US Politics, there is perhaps two third party candidates and politicians that stand out. Firstly is multi-millionaire Ross Perot who ran for President in 1992. Perot challenged Bush and Clinton in 1992. Perot managed to gain 19% of the vote in the election, and did appear on the ballot in every state.

Arguably a more successful third party candidate is Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont. Although voting with the Democrats, he was elected as an independent Senator, and has held office as an independent since 2006. Before this he was a member of the House of Representatives for 16 years.

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