The Impact of Third-Party Candidates on Political Campaigns in Southern Arizona: An Expert's Perspective

The 2020 presidential election is a highly contested race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, but the impact of third-party candidates should not be overlooked. While it is difficult for candidates outside of politics to get their name on the ballots in most states, they can still have a profound political influence. In Wyoming, for example, candidates for the House of Representatives only need to live in the state once they take office. Voting in order of preference is a common practice that allows voters to rank candidates according to their preference.

The Forward party, co-chaired by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, has legal status in six states and is working to obtain it in nearly two dozen more this year. Although no independent candidate or candidate from an independent party has won an electoral vote in more than half a century, Biden and his team must still be aware of the potential threat posed by these candidates. In close elections, even a small portion of votes from third parties can have a major impact. Qualifying for the polls in every state is a difficult task for candidates outside the electoral system, as they lack existing political networks. Additionally, younger voters are more likely to be motivated by issues and causes than by partisan politics.

They are more likely to search for candidates who share their values than those who share their party affiliation. In some previous elections with strong third-party presidential candidates (1912, 1948, 1968 and 1999), the margin of victory was wide enough that even the relatively large number of voters who voted for their preferred candidate did not have enough influence to elect a third-party president. This year, with the nation facing dangerous political divisions, economic anxiety, and a deep desire for new leadership in Washington, many independent candidates are running. In fact, more than one in ten voters under 45 are likely to vote for whoever is on the presidential list, for the No Labels initiative or for Cornel West. In 1980, John Anderson won more than 6% of the popular vote despite scoring much higher at the start of his campaign.

Democratic officials are reassured by recent elections that have seen large numbers of young people and women from the suburbs running as Democratic candidates.