In a nation with a two-party system as firmly entrenched as in the United States, there exists political motive to inhibit the growth of other parties. Republicans and Democrats alike would naturally shy away from broadening competition for votes and thus competition for power. The fact that third parties have existed for a long time but are still waging war state by state to even get on the November ballot is a testament to the struggle between established power and new challengers.
Ballot access laws ensure getting on the ballot in all 50 states is extremely difficult; if it were easy, if the procedures less complex and stringent, older third parties would today have the same access to voters that the two major parties enjoy (and maybe even access to the debate stage — which only happens if the Commission of Presidential Debates says it’s OK).
There are three minor parties making progress toward total ballot access. Here’s a brief summary of each.
THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY: SOCIALLY LIBERAL, FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE
The Libertarian Party was founded in 1971. In general, Libertarians believe in maximizing personal freedoms (such as the right to drug use or abortion), minimizing government interference in citizen affairs (like ending government surveillance), and terminating U.S. military invasions and bombings in foreign nations. The Libertarian Party is on the ballot in 32 states.
THE GREEN PARTY: VERY LIBERAL
The Green Party began in 1984. It’s “Four Pillars” are: Peace and Non-Violence, Ecological Wisdom, Grassroots Democracy, and Social Justice. They emphasize the use of tax wealth to meet human needs like universal healthcare, want to reduce the military budget and keep the U.S. out of wars, and want to end corporate control of the U.S. political process. They are on the ballot in 20 states.
THE CONSTITUTION PARTY: VERY CONSERVATIVE
The Constitution Party was recognized in 1996. This party stresses the need to follow the Constitution according to the actual intent of the Founding Fathers. Members oppose abortion rights and gay rights, and support states’ rights, religious liberties, and Second Amendment rights. The Constitution Party will be on the ballot in 18 states.
To see who you can vote for in your state, hit up the Sample Ballot Lookup on BallotPedia. There are many to choose from besides the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties, from veterans to socialists.