77 third-party candidates received more votes than the winner’s margin of victory in 2020

Seventy-seven third-party candidates whose vote totals were greater than the winner’s margin of victory

When third-party candidates run in elections, sometimes they can receive more votes than the margin of victory in the race. We looked at last year’s races where that happened within our coverage scope of more than 10,000 races. Below are the results of that analysis.

In 2020, there were 77 third-party or independent candidates who received more votes than the margin of victory in their election. Presidential candidates were not included in the analysis. These third-party candidates included: 

  • eight running for Congress, 
  • 23 running for a statewide office, 
  • 43 running for another state-level office, 
  • and three running for a local office within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope. 

Here are some quick stats about those candidates:

  • The eight congressional candidates included two who ran for U.S. Senate. 
    • Kevin O’Connor of the Legal Marijuana Now Party received 5.77% of the vote in Minnesota’s U.S. Senate election. Tina Smith (D) won by a margin of 5.25 percentage points. O’Connor’s 185,064 votes was the largest number of votes any such third-party candidate received in 2020. 
    • In North Carolina, Shannon Bray (L) received 3.13% of the vote, while incumbent Thom Tillis (R) won re-election by a 1.75 percentage point margin.
    • Since our analysis doesn’t cover races that advanced to a runoff, we didn’t include the U.S. Senate race in Georgia. In the general election, Shane Hazel (L) received 2.3% of the vote. David Perdue (R) and Jon Ossoff (D) advanced to the runoff with 49.7% and 47.9% of the vote (a difference of 1.8 percentage points), respectively.
  • The third-party candidate who won the largest percentage of the vote in 2020 was Maine state Rep. Norman Higgins (I). Higgins, who had represented Maine’s 120th state House district since 2014, won 30.9% of the vote in 2020 but lost his bid for re-election to Richard Evans (D).
  • More than one-third of the 77 third-party candidates (26) were members of the Libertarian Party. The only other parties with five or more of these candidates were the Green Party (nine), the U.S. Taxpayer’s Party (the Michigan affiliate of the Constitution Party) (six), and the Legal Marijuana Now Party (five). There were 20 candidates who ran as independents.

In 2018, Ballotpedia identified 99 third-party candidates using the criteria above. Those 99 included five candidates for Congress, 21 running for a statewide office, 69 running for state-level offices, and four running for a local office within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope.

Libertarians made up a greater proportion of third-party candidates who received more votes than the margin of victory in their election (43) in 2018 than in 2020. That year, the only other party to run five or more of these candidates was the Green Party, with five. There were also 30 candidates who ran as independents.

There were five independent candidates who ran in both 2020 and 2018. In each election, they received more votes than the margin of victory. Four of those candidates ran for higher education boards in Michigan. The fifth, Will Hyman (L), ran to represent District 48 in West Virginia’s House of Delegates.

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Dickey defeats Stewart in special election in Iowa state Senate District 41

Adrian Dickey (R) defeated Mary Stewart (D) in the Jan. 26 special election for Iowa’s 41st Senate District. Dickey defeated Stewart 55.3% to 44.7%.

The special election was called after Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) resigned effective Jan. 2, 2021, to be seated in the U.S. House of Representatives. Democratic candidate Rita Hart contested the Nov. 3 election results. Three recounts were conducted, the last of which showing Miller-Meeks winning by six votes. Hart contested the election with the House Administration Committee, and on Jan. 21, Miller-Meeks filed a motion asking Congress to dismiss Hart’s challenge of the election results. The House committee has not yet ruled in the case. Click here for the full story.

Miller-Meeks served from 2019 to 2021. Dickey will fill the remaining two years in Miller-Meeks’s term.

Dickey’s 10.6 percentage point margin of victory is the largest in the 41st District since 2010 when Roby Smith (R) defeated Richard Clewell (D) by 19 percentage points. 

Iowa has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the Iowa state Senate by a margin of 32-18.

As of January, 24 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Iowa held 22 special elections from 2010 to 2020.

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A look at this year’s Supreme Court term

The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has been in its current session since Oct. 5—its first full session where oral arguments are being conducted via teleconference. Here’s an update on the October 2020-2021 term.

On Jan. 25, SCOTUS issued one opinion in a case argued during the current term, bringing the number of opinions issued this term to 12. 

In the case Henry Schein Inc. v. Archer and White Sales Inc., the court issued a per curiam opinion—a ruling given collectively by the whole court—dismissing the case as improvidently granted. Put another way, the court concluded that it should not have granted review in the case.

The court’s next argument sitting is scheduled to begin on Feb. 22. So far, the court has agreed to hear 60 cases during this term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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About the author

Dave Beaudoin

Dave Beaudoin is a project director at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.