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Third party candidates in the 2024 presidential race

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You may have seen headlines about No Labels, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and other third party candidates, but you won’t get a chance to vote for them in a presidential primary. That’s because political parties each have their own way of selecting candidates, and most third parties don’t use statewide elections.

Who chooses the candidates for president?

Technically speaking, political parties are semi-private organizations that can choose who they nominate for president, and how.

In the United States, the Democratic and Republican parties choose their nominees for president through a system of state primaries and caucuses. This system evolved over hundreds of years, and the public only got the chance to vote directly for candidates in the 1950s.

For third parties such as the Libertarian Party and the Green Party, usually each state organization chooses delegates to send to a national convention; those delegates in turn choose a presidential nominee. If you want to participate in any part of that process, contact the party office in your state and ask about joining the party. There might be a fee, and you still might not get a chance to vote for delegates to the national convention. Still, there might be some way you can participate. In 2020, for example, the New Hampshire Libertarian Party allowed its members to mail in ballots with their preference for a presidential candidate. Delegates used the results of the mail-in primary to inform their choice at the national convention.

No Labels forged a different path. They announced plans to run a bipartisan ticket, with a Democrat and Republican, if Joe Biden and Donald Trump are the major party nominees for 2024. However, in April 2024 No Labels announced they would not move forward with a presidential campaign.

How do third parties get on the ballot?

The biggest challenge for third party candidates is often ballot access. Each state has different rules about which candidates can appear on the 2024 general election ballot. In New Hampshire, for example, any candidate can appear on the presidential ballot if they collect 3,000 signatures (1,500 from each congressional district) and pay a $250 fee. New Hampshire’s requirements are much lower than many other states, however.

Democrats and Republicans, on the other hand, usually have automatic access to the ballot.

In order to ensure ballot access in 2024, No Labels established itself as a political party in some states. However, the organization does not define itself as a national political party.

Do third party candidates “spoil” elections?

Another challenge for third parties is fear of “spoilers.” Sometimes third party candidates tend to attract a significant share of voters who would otherwise vote for a major party nominee, “spoiling” the victory for that nominee.

For example, in 1992 businessman Ross Perot ran an independent presidential campaign against Democrat Bill Clinton and incumbent Republican president George Bush. Clinton won 43% of the popular vote, Bush won 37% of the popular vote, and Perot won 19% of the popular vote. Many analysts believe Perot’s campaign weakened Bush, who might have won reelection without Perot in the race.

As another example, in 2000 Ralph Nader ran as a Green Party candidate for president against Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush. Bush and Gore each won about 48% of the national popular vote, while Nader won about 3%. According to some analysts, if Nader had dropped out, his voters would have given Gore the victory.

The Democratic Party, in particular, voiced concern about No Labels and the Green Party “spoiling” the election for Joe Biden in 2024. In fact, some Democrats argued that No Labels was secretly working to reelect Donald Trump. No Labels vigorously denied this.

Possible independent and third party candidates

Charles Ballay

Charles Ballay

Charles Ballay is an otolaryngologist and Libertarian candidate for president. He supports term limits at all levels of federal government, public-private partnerships to develop high-speed rail, and decentralized drug policy set at the state level.

Jacob Hornberger

Jacob Hornberger

Jacob Hornberger is an attorney and founder of the Future of Freedom Foundation. He is seeking the Libertarian nomination for president. He supports an open border policy, a return to gold- and silver-backed currency, and withdrawing from NATO.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. spent most of his career working as an environmental lawyer. In recent years he has dedicated his energy to anti-vaccine campaigns. After starting his campaign as a Democrat, in October 2023 Kennedy announced an independent/third-party run for president.

Lars Mapstead

Lars Mapstead

Lars Mapstead is a tech entrepreneur from California running for the Libertarian Party nomination. He pledges to “unrig the system,” including a national sales tax, proportional representation, and allowing anyone to form a group for health insurance.

Chase Oliver

Chase Oliver

Chase Oliver gained national attention when his U.S. Senate campaign gave him the opportunity to debate Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock. That race ended with a run-off between Warnock and his Republican challenger, which is one reason why Oliver supports ranked-choice voting. He also has a solution to the student debt crisis: make all current loans interest-free and end all future government-guaranteed loans.

Mike ter Maat

Michael ter Maat

Mike ter Maat is an economist and former police officer running for the Libertarian Party nomination. He proposes a “Gold New Deal,” a play on the Green New Deal made popular by liberals. Ter Maat’s platform includes forbidding abortion bans prior to viability, ending mandatory participation in Social Security, and ending qualified immunity for law enforcement.

Cornel West

Cornel West

Cornel West is an intellectual running for the Green Party nomination. The homepage for his presidential campaign website lists three priorities: “dismantling the empire” (huge cutbacks on military spending and activity), “unleashing democracy” (investing in social programs), and “saving the planet” (including the Green New Deal).


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