With exactly one week to go before the polls close on the 2018 election, I thought you might be interested in some statistics that I dredged up about third-party candidates. Because of variations in the source materials, these are only approximations but they do cast some light on what could happen if third-party candidates gain some additional seats. (Accuracy is plus or minus 2%.)
According to Ballotpedia, there are currently 11 states with state senators who do not belong to either of the two major parties, and 32 states with representatives who are neither Democrats nor Republicans.
On the Senate side, there are six independents, four members of the Vermont Progressive Party (all of whom also ran as Democrats), and one Libertarian. On the House side, there are 20 independents, one member of the Independence Party, which is a different thing entirely from an independent, eight members of the Vermont Progressive Party (all of whom are, of course, in Vermont), and two Libertarians, both in New Hampshire. There’s also one Green party member and one state representative that belongs to the “Common Sense Independent Party.”
This year, having looked at every single congressional race that will be decided next Tuesday, I found that there were a total of 317 Libertarian candidates, 275 running for the lower houses and 60 running for the upper houses of the state legislatures. The Green party is running 48 candidates for House seats and 14 candidates for Senate seats. There are 147 independents running for House seats and 36 running for Senate seats. There are also more than two dozen splinter parties running candidates here and there, for a total of 82 running for House seats and 48 others running for Senate seats.
Altogether, then, there are 534 third-party candidates running for House seats, which represents 9.8% of the total member of the Houses of Representatives, and 158 third-party candidates running for Senate seats, representing just 8% of the total number of State Senate seats.
On the House side, there are 25 states where third-party candidates are vying for at least 10% of the seats in the lower house of the state legislature. Utah has the most third-party candidates running for House seats, with 35 candidates running for 75 seats, a 47% ratio of third-party candidates. North Carolina ranks second on the list, with 29 third-party candidates vying for 120 sets, a ratio of 24%. Colorado has a 23% ratio of third-party candidates, has the highest percentage of third-party candidates in the House races.
I am using the term “third-party” for anyone who neither a Democratic or a Republican candidate. Within this category, there are two “major” third-parties, the Libertarians and the Greens. There’s an another group of candidates that are running as independents because they don’t belong to any political party. Some members of this group list themselves as “non-affiliated” or “no party affiliation.” And then there are the splinter parties, some of which seem to have only one candidate.
What do these statistics mean, if anything?
Regardless of the number of candidates the third-parties are running in 2018, there is very little chance that their campaigns will have any impact. The most likely states to feel any impact would be Vermont, which currently has 19 third-party legislators, 13 in the House and six in the senate, and Maine, which currently has eight third-party members on the House side. Both states have shown a propensity for electing third-party politicians. Remember that the two United States Senators who are not members of a major party, Bernie Sanders and Angus King, represent Vermont and Maine, respectively.
In the 2016 election, there was some evidence that Jill Stein’s presence on the ballots in certain states had a definite negative effect on Hillary Clinton’s campaign in those states. While not decisive, Stein’s campaign definitely impacted the Democratic party candidate.
This year, in an election where “none of the above” might actually describe the mood of the electorate, especially among younger voters, we might very well see one or two more third-party legislators, not nearly enough to affect the outcome of the impending Republican efforts to rewrite the Constitution.
Here’s a summary of the calculations. (If you want the full spreadsheet for some reason, drop me a line and I will send it out to you.)
I realized that this was a pyrrhic effort because no one will read it, but I was curious about how many non-major party candidates were actually running this year and since I had already done the work, I thought I should just throw it out there and see if anyone notices.