There’s More Than Just Elephants and Donkeys

June 9, 2009
By Groundhog BRONZE, Aurora, Colorado
Groundhog BRONZE, Aurora, Colorado
3 articles 1 photo 0 comments

Did you know that there were more presidential candidates voted for in the 2008 U.S. election than there are United States of America? Obama and McCain were hardly the only candidates to choose from. There were many candidates, from many different parties, sometimes called “third parties”.

This editorial is mostly for readers who are not aware of the candidates to choose from, other than Democrats and Republicans. I write this editorial to educate those who don’t know much at all about voting for third party candidates, and to persuade them to consider casting a vote for a third party candidate (even those who can’t vote yet).

Each U.S. state is allowed their own personalized ballot, and most times the state ballots of presidential candidates won’t be exactly the same from state-to-state. So, not all presidential candidates make it onto every U.S. state’s ballot. Third party candidates are usually much less popular than Democratic or Republican candidates running for the same office(s). Due to these reasons, the number of third party candidates that make it onto almost all states’ ballots is much smaller than the total number of third party candidates running for office. In 2008, the top four third-party U.S. presidential candidates, in terms of the number of state ballots on which their names were actually printed, were Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, Ralph Nader, and Cynthia McKinney.

Some people know that each state has its own presidential candidates on its ballot, and also believe third party candidates crop up in a state or two, but no more than that. However, this is a misconception. Many of the third party candidates aren’t mix-and-match, state-by-state, rather some do get onto most of the state ballots.

Ralph Nader did the best of the four candidates I mentioned above, having his name machine-printed on 45 state ballots and in D.C. too. There is usually a line on the presidential ballot (in most states, but not all) for voters to write-in a candidate, if their names are not pre-listed on the ballot. “Write-in” votes, as they’re called, still supposedly count, as long as they’re legible and the candidate meets some other requirements that qualify them to be voted for. Thus, many third party candidates’ names were submitted on ballots that did not have them pre-printed. You can put anyone’s name, even your own, or “Santa Claus”, as some people have in past elections. So, even candidates whose names were not given on state ballots, like the top four third party candidates I mentioned and some I didn’t mention, were voted for in more states than the states that did have the candidates’ names pre-printed.

The U.S. government endorses, certifies, and approves third party candidates as legitimate, and yet the mainstream media rarely says anything about third party candidates in comparison to the Republican and Democratic candidates. Third party candidates are rarely discussed much by newspapers and TV channels, or by any other means.

On election night, I was looking at the major U.S. TV stations, as I channel-surfed between them. I noticed that they typically had a bar graph with two large bars, one totaling for votes for Obama and the other for McCain; and a number at the bottom totaling the Democrat and Republican votes, along with the number of uncounted votes. It looked to me as if that the number of Republican votes and Democrat votes were the only two parts; it was as if once all votes were counted, they should be the sum of the number McCain got plus those that Obama received. There was no “other” category of any type that I saw.

Sparse media coverage for third party candidates is self-evident for some of you. Did you know the names of the four third party candidate’s I’ve mentioned so far, until you read this editorial?

I don’t live there, but I came across some vote count records for 2008 about New York, and I found them intriguing. New York City is the number-one, top, most, populous city in the U.S., and in the top five in the world. New York State’s counted votes totaled 7,721,718. Slightly more people were reported submitting blank ballets than all of the totaled third party votes, including the total votes for pre-printed third party candidates and write-ins combined. Even worse, about twice as many blank ballots (totaling 80,226) as any one of the third party presidential candidates received. The exact number the leading third party candidate, Nader, received was 41,248 votes.

Including write-ins, New York had only about one in a hundred votes for third party candidates. There were fourteen qualified third party candidates, including write-ins. Of the fourteen, nine got less than 1000 votes, eight less than 100, and two of the write-in candidates were counted as having zero total votes. There were so few votes for the two candidates that votes for them were miscounted as zero (you must have at least one vote to be a write-in candidate).

New York’s story in this last election was similar to most other states.

The U.S. didn’t even have a “Republican “and “Democratic” party for some time. The Democratic Party is descended from a split of the Democratic - Republican Party in the 1820s; the other major split was the “Whig” party. The Republican Party is descended from a group of anti-slavery activists and modernizers in the 1850s. Party affiliations of past U.S. presidents include the Federalist Party, the Democratic-Republican Party, the Whig Party, the National Republican Party, the National Union Party, and even, a couple of times, no party at all. However, for many years there has been a two-party monopoly for the Presidency and other offices since around the time of Abraham Lincoln’s incumbency.

In many cases, ignorance has led people to not pay enough attention to all of their voting options. You don’t have to vote for Republican or Democratic candidates if you don’t want to. I ask that you do your own research before you vote, and that you encourage third party acceptance in news media, government, and elsewhere.

The author's comments:
I pianstakingly retrieved voting statistics from each state's votign website, which can be visited from the URLs given at:
"FAQs: State/Territory Election Offices."

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