Voices & Choices

Independent and third-party candidates are gaining ground, and votes

Independent and third-party candidates are gaining ground, and votes

Bad news for independent and third-party voters: the two major parties continued to dominate in the 2018 midterm elections. On the bright side, however, independent and third-party candidates won more than 4 percent of the vote in 36 House and Senate races.

Although these margins weren’t enough to break the two-party system’s stranglehold on democracy, they suggest weakening grip.

A September survey conducted by The Democracy Fund found that 64 percent of voters liked the idea of a third party. Gallup echoed the same finding, reporting that 61 percent of likely voters believe a third party would alleviate some of their dissatisfaction with both major parties.

Certain examples from the election results reflect this dissatisfaction. In Utah, Eric Eliason, the candidate from the newly formed United Utah Party, received 12 percent of the vote in the Utah’s solidly Republican 1st Congressional District. Meanwhile, an impressive 6 percent of voters in Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District race backed Libertarian candidate Kelly Standley, despite knowing that the current voting system made her chance of success unlikely.

In Maine’s U.S. House and Senate races, the historic use of ranked choice voting empowered independent and third-party candidates to run while letting voters choose the candidates they liked the best without fears of spoilers or vote-splitting. In the closely contested 2nd Congressional District race, independents Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar received 8 percent of voters’ first choices. Those Bond and Hoar supporters’ second and third preferences ultimately decided the winner under the ranked choice tally that ended Thursday.

As Maine showed, ranked choice voting gives voice to the growing number of third-party and independent candidates and supporters, allowing voters to vote their conscience without fear that their votes will be wasted.

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