Third party candidates: Spoilers or saviors?

There are more than two choices on the ballot for president

File photo
File photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – If you’re not thrilled with the choice of Donald Trump or Joe Biden for president, you’ll have at least five other candidates to choose from in the November general election.

During the 2016 presidential election, Trump topped Hillary Clinton by just under 113,000 votes. Yet 3.1 percent of Floridians who cast their ballots voted for third party and write-in candidates.

In fact, nearly 300,000 Floridians backed someone outside the mainstream options four years ago.

This year, Howie Hawkins is running as the Green Party’s nominee.

“Over 80 percent of the people want a Green New Deal to deal with the climate crisis, including 64 percent of Republicans," Hawkins said. "That’s been the Green Party’s signature issue for the last decade.”

Hawkins is joined by 12 other candidates who have signed on to run for the nation’s highest office. Besides the Green Party, you could align yourself with the Socialist Party, led by nominee Gloria LiRiva.

Then there’s the Libertarian Party.

As Libertarian candidate Joe Jorgensen put it in a recent campaign video: “If we all voted for what we wanted, then we would get what we wanted.”

And then, of course, there’s the Reform Party, whose candidate is Rocky De La Fuente.

If none of those choices are your cup of tea, there’s always the option of writing someone in — someone like Dennis Ball.

“It’s just a real amount of change I believe needs to happen,” Ball said.

Some candidates get into the race as spoilers in an effort to pry away votes from contenders. Others say we need more voices than the two we’re traditionally presented.

“In about 40 of the 50 states, the Presidential vote we get determines if we have a ballot line going forward," Hawkins said. “And it makes it a lot easier for our candidates to run down ballot races. Local offices. State offices. Congress.”

But as we’ve learned in years past, third party candidates can alter the outcome of a race. In the contested 2000 election, Ralph Nader siphoned off 97,000 votes in a race that was decided by 537.

A total of seven candidates' names appear on this year’s ballot, including Trump, Biden and five other third party candidates. Six more individuals have qualified as write-in candidates.