In fewer than 30 days, voters all over the country will head to the polls to cast their vote for the next president. This year, voters will have four names to choose from instead of the usual two.
Along with the two main party candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party and Jill Stein of the Green party are also running.
While voters always have the choice to write in a name, there hasn’t been a third party candidate approved to run in all 50 states since Ross Perot for the Reform Party in 1996. At this time, there are two.
MVNU political science professor Dr. Terilyn Johnston-Huntington explained why this has happened.
“I make an argument that political parties are actually coalitions,” she said. “So, you have a lot of people that hold a lot of different political ideologies within the same party.”
When those ideologies become too divergent, a third party often will emerge.
For example, the Libertarian Party wants a very limited government, with minimal regulations but more freedoms on an individual level.
“They generally support things like same-sex marriage, abortion rights, and gun ownership freedoms. Gary Johnson supports the legalization of marijuana; that’s one of his big things,” Huntington said.
The Libertarians’ view, in general, is that the government should not have the power to regulate issues that are on a personal level. The tagline on their website, lp.org, is “Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom.”
On the other side of the political spectrum, even farther left than the Democrats, stand the Green Party and Jill Stein. Their primary issues revolve around environmental protection and regulations.
“[Stein] is almost a pacifist,” Huntington said. “She is more interested in peace initiatives and human rights initiatives because those all have environmental degradation attached to them.”
The Green Party self-identifies as “grassroots activists, environmentalists, advocates for social justice and nonviolent resisters,” according to the website, gp.org. The party platform is based on four main principles — peace, ecology, social justice and democracy.
Huntington urges all voters to cast their vote for the candidate that best aligns with their own personal views and beliefs. For more unbiased information on all the presidential candidates, visit ballotpedia.org.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Eastern Time.