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Explained: Apart from Biden and Trump, the other candidates in race to be US president

US Elections 2020: George Washington, the first president, is the only independent candidate in history to win the country’s general election. But third-party candidates and independents do still have the potential to impact who wins the election.

Written by Rahel Philipose , Edited by Explained Desk | Vasco |
Updated: November 6, 2020 12:42:32 pm
Rapper and fashion designer Kanye West, former coal executive Don Blankenship and child-actor-turned cryptocurrency billionaire Brock Pierce

President Donald Trump and his Democratic contender Joe Biden have dominated headlines and social media feeds in the months leading up to the US election day. But these are not the only names that will appear on presidential ballots in states across the country — there are also over 30 third-party and independent candidates running for President in at least one state, this year.

Among the candidates who have filed to appear on the general election ballot along with Trump and Biden on November 3 are rapper and fashion designer Kanye West, child-actor-turned cryptocurrency billionaire Brock Pierce and former coal executive Don Blankenship. But even the most high-profile independent candidates have little to no chance of showing up on enough ballots to secure the 270 electoral votes needed to clinch the presidency.

In fact, George Washington, the first president, is the only independent candidate in history to win the country’s general election. But third-party candidates and independents do still have the potential to impact who wins the election. During the last election cycle in 2016, over 7.6 million American voters cast their ballots for someone other than then-Republican nominee Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

Who are the major third party and independent candidates who will be on the ballot in multiple states?

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Kanye West: Billionaire rapper Kanye West announced that he was running for President on the 4th of July, the US’ independence day. While he immediately received support from his wife, reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and several of his loyal fans, his candidacy was also widely dismissed by social media users, many of whom saw it as an elaborate PR stunt.

But West proved his critics wrong, qualifying for presidential ballot access in 12 states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Utah, and Vermont. He is running as an independent member of his own party, which he calls the ‘Birthday Party’, along with his running mate Wyoming preacher Michelle Tidball.

A survey conducted by the Morning Consult and Politico in August showed that 2 per cent of 2,000 registered voters in the US supported West. West supports a mix of conservative and liberal issues, including ending abortions rights, police reform and making renewable energy a top priority.

Jo Jorgensen: Psychology lecturer Jo Jorgensen is running for president as a candidate of the Libertarian Party. The 63-year-old is the first female presidential nominee of the party that was founded in 1971 and has grown to become the third-largest political party after the Republicans and the Democrats.

According to, the Libertarian Party has had a presidential candidate on the ballot every year since 1972 but has never received more than 4 per cent of the popular vote.

Jorgenson is no political newcomer. In 1996, she was former Libertarian Party presidential nominee Harry Browne’s running mate. She also ran for South Carolina’s 4th Congressional District in 1992, but was heavily defeated. A long-time critic of the US’ two-party system, Jorgensen is also against mass incarceration, foreign military operations and big federal programmes.

This year, Jorgensen and her running mate entrepreneur Jeremy ‘Spike’ Cohen will appear on the general election ballot in all 50 states as well as in Washington DC.

Howie Hawkins: Social activist and retired construction activist Howie Hawkins is the Green Party’s candidate for the US presidential election 2020. He is one of the founding members of the party and has run for many offices in the past — including three consecutive runs for New York governor in 2010, 2014, and 2018.

A Green New Deal and Medicare for all, two main components of former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign, are part of Hawkins’ campaign. He is also running as the Socialist Party USA nominee.

Howie and his running mate Angela Nicole Walker will appear on the ballot in 30 states, including Washington DC. Among the independent and third party candidates, he is the second-most popular candidate after Jo Jorgensen. While Jorgensen has captured 4 per cent of registered voters, Hawkins garners 1 per cent support, according to Pew Research Center.

Brock Pierce: Child actor-turned-cryptocurrency billionaire Brock Pierce threw his hat into the ring for the presidential election this year as an independent candidate. The 39-year-old made a fortune during his second career as a tech entrepreneur and allegedly raised billions of dollars during the early days of the crypto ecosystem.

Pierce was endorsed by the Independence Party of New York at its presidential nominating convention in August and has pumped in over three million of his own dollars into his campaign, according to Federal Election Commission data.

He has told the BBC that his current campaign is focussed on “laying the groundwork for the future”, especially since he has age on his side. He supports issues like the legalisation of marijuana, an expanded immigration system, the eventual elimination of carbon emissions, and healthcare for all.

He is on the ballot in over 15 states and Washington DC. Pierce is a write-in candidate in Rhode Island, New Jersey, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Alabama. A write-in candidate is one whose name does not appear on the ballot, but seeks election by asking voters to vote for them by physically writing their name on the ballot.

Don Blankenship: Former CEO of the Massey Energy Company Don Blackenship has described himself as “Trumpier than Trump”. Like Trump, he supports curtailing abortion rights, the building of a border wall. But Blankenship insists if elected president he will actually accomplish all that Trump has promised.

The 70-year-old multimillionaire is the presidential nominee of the far-right Constitution Party and was able to spend over a million dollars on his campaign this year, according to the New York Times.

Blankenship was convicted of a conspiracy to violate mine-safety laws after 29 miners who worked for him were killed in an explosion in 2010. He served a one year prison sentence and was released in 2017.

He will appear on the ballot in 21 states with a write-in campaign in Vermont, Pennsylvania and Alabama.

Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente: The 65-year-old businessman is the presidential candidate of the Alliance Party. This is not De La Fuente’s first time on the campaign trail. He has previously run for US president in 2016, mayor of New York City and the US senate in nine states.

He is a critic of the two-party system, and is using his platform to support a single-payer health care system, immigration reform and increased investment in renewable energy.

He will appear with his running mate author-historian Darcy Richardson on general election ballots in 15 states and will run a write-in campaign in three others. In California, he is on the ballot as the American Independence Party nominee, with Kanye West as his running mate.

Brian T Carroll: Carroll, a school teacher and evangelical Christian, is the presidential nominee of the American Solidarity Party, which is a small and relatively new Christian democratic organisation. His running mate is educator Amar Patel, the son of Indian immigrants.

Carroll is vehemently pro-life, anti-death penalty and supports health care for all and climate protection. Carroll and Patel will appear on the ballot in nine states — Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, Arkansas, Louisiana, Guam, Mississippi, Vermont, and Rhode Island. He will also have a write-in campaign in another 32 states.

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