A two-decade low for non-major party candidates vote share

Welcome to the Monday, February 13, Brew. 

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Third-party and independent candidates received the lowest share of the national U.S. House vote in two decades
  2. San Antonio charter amendment regarding abortion, marijuana, and police actions certified for the May 6 ballot
  3. Looking back at this day in the 2020 presidential election

Third-party and independent candidates received the lowest share of the national U.S. House vote in two decades

In recent years, the national vote share that independent and third-party candidates have received in U.S. House elections has progressively declined, and this trend continued in 2022. Independent and third-party candidates received 2% of the national vote share in U.S. House elections last year, down from 2.5% in 2020, and their lowest share of the U.S. House vote since 2000.

The national vote share for the U.S. House refers to the percentage of total votes received by a political party (or independent candidates) in national elections for the U.S. House of Representatives. It represents the party’s share of the total number of votes cast in elections for the U.S. House across the country. The two major parties in the United States—the Democratic and Republican parties—have received more than 95% of the national vote share for the U.S. House in every election since 2004. 

The last election cycle independent and third-party candidates received more than 5% of the national vote share for the U.S. House was the 2002 midterm election. That year, independent and third-party candidates received 5.3% of the national vote share. 

After declining to 4.2% in 2004, the national vote share received by independent and third-party candidates remained relatively stable for the next 12 years, ranging from 3.8% in 2010 to 4.7% in 2008. After this period of relative stability, the independent and third-party vote share declined steeply in 2018, falling to 2.8% from 4.4.% in 2016. It declined further to 2.5% in 2020, and to 2% in 2022.

The share of the vote won by independent and third-party candidates has rarely resulted in U.S. House seats in recent decades. Since 2000, the national vote share that third-party candidates (not including independents) received in U.S. House elections has ranged from 1.6% in 2022 to 4.8% in 2002. In that period, candidates representing third parties—including write-in candidates—have not won election in any U.S. House district. 

Independent candidates (those not running under the banner of any party) have fared slightly better in that same period. Since 2000, the national vote share that independent candidates received in U.S. House elections has ranged from 0.3% in 2020 to 0.8% in 2014. Independent candidates won four U.S. House elections since 2000—Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in 2000, 2002, and 2004 and Virgil Goode (I-Va.) in 2000.

Although there are dozens of political parties in the United States, only certain parties qualify to have the names of their candidates for office printed on election ballots. To qualify for ballot placement, a party must meet certain requirements that vary from state to state. For example, in some states, a party may have to file a petition to qualify for ballot placement, while in others, an aspiring political party must register a certain number of voters.

The number of ballot-qualified political parties fluctuates as parties gain or lose qualified status. In addition, some states distinguish between major parties and minor parties. Specific differences between major and minor parties differ from state to state. For example, in all states, major parties are granted access to primary elections. Some states, however, do not permit minor parties to participate in primary elections. Consequently, minor party candidates in these states can run only in general elections.

Have we piqued your interest in third-party ballot access in the U.S.? If so, click here to listen to our interview with Richard Winger for On the Ballot, Ballotpedia’s weekly podcast. In the episode, Winger, the founder of Ballot Access News and a lifelong advocate for third-party ballot access, tells host Victoria Rose why he believes increasing ballot access for third-party candidates will help increase free competition between political parties. 

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San Antonio charter amendment regarding abortion, marijuana, and police actions certified for the May 6 ballot

On May 6, 2023, a first-of-its-kind local ballot measure will appear before voters in San Antonio: a charter amendment to ban law enforcement from enforcing any state law that criminalizes abortion. The measure—which would also restrict enforcement of low-level marijuana possession and certain police actions—gathered enough valid signatures to appear on the ballot, city officials announced on Feb. 8. 

Last month, organizers for the amendment, including ACT4SA and Ground Game Texas, submitted more than 37,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. They needed at least 20,000 valid signatures from city voters for the measure to be placed on the ballot. City officials were able to verify 20,973 signatures on Feb. 8, and the city council is expected to officially order the election on Feb. 16. 

“We will be saving money, keeping families together, stopping the unnecessary overcrowding of jails — but most of all, we will be saving lives through these policies,” said Ananda Tomas, executive director of ACT4SA.

If approved by voters, the charter amendment would:

  • End enforcement of low-level marijuana possession (Class A or B misdemeanor offenses);
  • Prohibit San Antonio police officers from investigating or making arrests for abortions, as well as prohibit them from enforcing any state law that criminalizes abortion;
  • Ban no-knock warrants by law enforcement;
  • Ban chokeholds by law enforcement, and;
  • Use citations instead of arrests for low-level nonviolent crimes.

The measure would also provide for the City Council to appoint a Justice Director. The roles of the Justice Director would include reducing incarceration and mitigating law enforcement practices. The Justice Director cannot have worked in law enforcement or have significant financial investments in the law enforcement industry, and would report directly to the City Council.

Act4SA, the organization working alongside Ground Game Texas in support of the amendment, said that the proposed charter amendment would make the city safer. “[The amendment] reduces burden on officers, prevents unnecessary arrests for nonviolent low level crimes, reduces re-offender rate, pushes police accountability and transparency, fights mass incarceration and deportation,” the organization said on its webpage.

The San Antonio Police Officers Association opposes the amendment. Danny Diaz, president of the union, said in a statement that no-knock warrants and chokeholds are already prohibited unless a life is at serious risk, and the proposed charter amendment is in direct conflict with state law regarding abortion and marijuana cases.

“The decriminalization of marijuana and abortion are handled at the state and federal level of government,” he said in a statement, “This is not a decision that can be implemented at a local level.”

Article 11, Section 5 of the Texas Constitution has a provision that says: “The adoption or amendment of charters is subject to such limitations as may be prescribed by the Legislature, and no charter or any ordinance passed under said charter shall contain any provision inconsistent with the Constitution of the State, or of the general laws enacted by the Legislature of this State.”

Mike Siegel, the political director and co-founder of Ground Game Texas, told the San Antonio Report that the amendment is legal. “Every day, police departments decide what they’re going to enforce and what they’re not going to enforce, and this represents the people of San Antonio saying: these are not our priorities for our scarce public dollars,” he said, “The roots of the Texas Constitution are in local self control [and] self determination. So that’s why we have charter cities that have this authority to adopt their own charters and decide their own laws.”

San Antonio voters will make the decision regarding the charter amendment on May 6, 2023.

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Looking back at this day in the 2020 presidential election

With the November midterms in the rearview mirror and the 2024 presidential campaign season just around the corner, let’s take a look back at this time four (and eight) years ago, when the 2020 presidential race was already in full swing. 

By Feb. 10, 2019, 175 Democrats and 70 Republicans had filed to run for president, including 11 noteworthy Democratic candidates and Republican incumbent President Donald Trump. Nineteen Libertarian candidates and 13 Green candidates had also filed. As of Feb. 10, 2023 (exactly four years later), 89 Democrats and 180 Republicans have filed to run for president in 2024. Seventeen Libertarian candidates and seven Green candidates have also filed. 

Here’s a selection of items that were featured in our presidential news briefing newsletter on Feb. 13, 2019.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who officially launched her presidential campaign on Feb. 10, said she had raised $1 million in the first 48 hours after announcing her candidacy.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren attended the National Indian Women Honor Luncheon in Washington, D.C., where she introduced Wampanoag Tribe chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais. Warren had officially launched her campaign five days earlier, on Feb. 9. 

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had not yet officially announced his presidential campaign, was planning to spend $500 million in 2020 on one of two plans: (1) running for president as a Democrat or (2) boosting the Democratic nominee with voter and polling data, according to campaign operatives. Bloomberg went on to run for president as a Democrat and was defeated in his party’s primaries.

Flashback from February 13, 2015: The Boston Globe reported that Jeb Bush was working to secure support from Mitt Romney’s donors after the 2012 Republican presidential nominee said he would not run in 2016. “Of Romney’s top five lobbyist bundlers in 2012—who each raised at least $1 million—four are supporting or likely to support Bush. The fifth is on the fence,” the Globe reported.

As we get ready for the 2024 cycle, our team of writers and editors has been browsing Ballotpedia’s 2020 Daily Presidential News Briefing, which provided a curated account of the most important news in the election. The encyclopedic content makes it easy to reminisce on this day in history. We hope you enjoy our little trips back in time!

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