Voters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will have the option to vote for a third-party candidate for the first time in 20 years this November:
The last time a third-party ticket was able to make it on every state ballot was in 1996 when Libertarian nominee Harry Browne and Reform Party candidate Ross Perot were able to do so.
Gary Johnson and running-mate Bill Weld have heralded the achievement as a sign of their campaign’s momentum and voters’ desire for other options besides Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They are running off this news by purchasing a full-page ad on the New York Times asking the debate commission to include them on the debate stage.
Johnson and Weld are currently polling at 10 percent. The threshold required to make the debates is an average of 15 percent; and with the first presidential debate just 12 days away, it would seemingly take a miracle to get him on the debate stage.
Interestingly, according to the most recent NBC News/SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll, Johnson’s inclusion on the ballot could be good news for Trump supporters:
The results show that Clinton loses slightly more support nationally with the existence of third-party candidates. Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein share about 15 percent of the vote nationally in a four-way race that includes Clinton and Trump. But when the third-party candidates’ supporters must choose between only Clinton and Trump, they split for Clinton at slightly higher rates than the GOP nominee.
The question is whether those who say they will vote for a third-party candidate are really non-voters who are just expressing dissatisfaction with the major party choices. Past survey research has shown that explicitly naming third-party candidates on questionnaires considerably overstates their actual support on Election Day.
We’ll see on Nov. 8.