Why are there parties other than the Democratic and Republican ones? I understand their existences, but aren't they basically just taking away votes from Biden at this point? Why would anyone vote for Jo Jorgenson, for example (even if they agree with her political views)? Lot's of people say something along the lines of "a vote for Kanye is a vote for Trump," but isn't this the exact same thing?

Note: I am talking specifically about presidential elections.

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    What races are you talking about? You will get a different answer if you are talking presidential races versus a local race. I assume you mean presidential based on the question but it would be good to clarify.
    – Joe W
    Nov 4 '20 at 4:57
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    @JoeW Presidential.
    – user34879
    Nov 4 '20 at 4:57
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    Presidential votes as in "one vote for one person for one office" are always winner-takes-it-all by their very nature and strongly advantage the two most promising candidates. Parliamentary elections a different as there are actually multiple seats to split between parties and smaller parties can get seats if they find a niche (e.g. SNP for scotland)
    – Manziel
    Nov 4 '20 at 8:57

It depends on your perspective but as a rule the votes for small parties are just going to siphon off votes from one party or the other. The presidential election is really 51 separate elections as each state and the district of columbia each hold a vote to decide presidential electors. 49 of those elections are winner take all while 2 of them split them up by house districts and give 2 votes for the senate to the majority winner. In the end you have to get 270 electoral votes to win (50% + 1). With the winner takes all system it is highly unlikely that a small party will actually stand a chance in the election.

That being said some consider those votes a protest vote to try and get the attention of politicians but if they actually care about losing those votes is another matter.

Here is an article for more information on the system.


  • That's what I thought, but it still makes no sense to me. You would think that people who are radical enough to waste their vote as a "protest vote" would so fervently hate Trump (for the most part, I'm guessing these people would vote Biden over Trump) that they would just vote for Biden.
    – user34879
    Nov 4 '20 at 5:07
  • @NotSoPedantic Some of them hate both Trump and Biden and don't want to vote for either
    – Joe W
    Nov 4 '20 at 5:12
  • @JoeW you'd think so, right? But it seems like those voters tend to either not even go to the polls at all, or vote for the one they hate less so the worse doesn't become president. Nov 4 '20 at 5:16
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    @NotSoPedantic third parties are not “somebody random”. They do have political programmes and seeing that such and such party is popular should in principle incentivise the other parties to move in that direction a bit to cash in those votes in the future. And this does to some degree happen in most democratic countries, just not in the US. Nov 4 '20 at 5:30
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    A small party is unlikely to win an election, much more likely is a big party to change it's platform to align to the interests of those voters
    – Caleth
    Nov 4 '20 at 12:11