Ain’t No Party Like a Third Party

Cuz a third party vote don’t count

The American electorate is angry. This election may well be the most polarizing in U.S. history as more and more Americans are considering protesting against the current lineup of candidates by opting not to vote, writing in alternatives like Bernie Sanders, or voting for third-party candidates. For those of you thinking that you are shaking up the two party system by not voting for the two major nominees, you are not.

Illustrator: Lindy Wirth

Illustrator: Lindy Wirth

Third-party candidates simply do not have a chance of winning in 2016. Why? The answer lies in something that political scientists call Duverger’s Law, which states that the way a country’s electoral system is structured usually determines how many competitive parties that country will have.

In the United States each congressional district gets only one legislative seat, which is also known as the single-member district. When a candidate wins that seat it makes it so there are only two dominant parties. The winner-takes-all nature of single-member districts allows for coalitions to form around elections and the odds of winning that election are much higher if only two parties exist, allowing each to bring as many people to its side as it can.

The winner-takes-all system also applies to presidential races because of the Electoral College. With each state, whichever candidate gets the most votes wins all of that state’s electoral votes. Look no further than the 1992 election. Independent Ross Perot took 19 percent of the popular vote, yet because he did not take a majority in any of the states, he got no electoral votes.

The main way for a third party to succeed in the U.S. would be if there was a major defect from one party to another, but that would only make the old party crumble and the former third party would take its place. The last time that happened was in 1860.

This is America, and you should be able to vote your conscience and let your voice be heard. But if you think that you will shake up the system by voting against the two parties, just know that it won’t have the greatest impact.