Let’s have some fun this year since we have two strong third party candidates.
What are the highest percentage of the vote for a third party since 1868 (hat tip for Wikipedia for both lists):
Now let’s look at votes won – which due to population changes and widening suffrage ability will favor candidates closer to 2016 (I am skipping electoral votes because it is highly unlikely either Johnson or Stein will win an electoral vote in a state on the ballot unless a “faithless” elector decides to cast a protest vote.); and here we go:
So what does Johnson or Stein need to break into the top five? Either over 8.5% or about 5 million votes. Could it happen? Yes it can and it probably will some year. But not very probable this year.
Actually for Johnson it is possible. (Now Joe Enroughty won’t be mad at me!) Governor Johnson has the record for most votes won by a Libertarian ever when in 2012 he got 1,275,971 votes (.99%). Johnson ran with former California judge James P. Gray (who, frankly, the former NM Governor should have picked again) that year.
But not likely at all for Dr. Stein. Ironically, Stein has a greater mountain to climb in her own party. The Green Party in 2000 with Ralph Nader and Winona (not Ryder but LaDuke!) garnered nearly three million votes (2,882,955) for just under 2.75%. That is amazing considering we had a tight race that year between Bush and Gore.
What do I think will happen? It is not clear but I would say perhaps 3-4% for Johnson/Weld and just under 1% (maybe a million votes maybe not) for Stein/Baraka; a LP record for Johnson/Weld but not a Green record for Stein/Baraka.
If you want to vote third party without fear of actually affecting the election, then this is how you do it: If you live in a state where one candidate is definitely going to win (California for Clinton for example) then you can vote Johnson (or Stein or another candidate – see below) without worrying that you could actually cause Trump or Clinton to win. But in a battleground state, you will have a tough choice. Watch the final polls. Complicating the issue in 2016 is there are not as many runaway states this year – about 30 states usually are set before the conventions as to who wins.
Anybody else running? The Constitution Party has longtime party activist Darrell Castle and his running mate Scott Bradley who are probably not on enough ballots to theoretically win the election. Others can be found here.