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Minor party is a political party that plays a smaller (in some cases much smaller) role than a major party in a country's politics and elections. The difference between minor and major parties can be so big that the membership total, donations, and the candidates that they are able to produce or attract are very distinct. Some of the minor parties play almost no role in a country's politics because of their low recognition, vote and donations. Minor parties often receive very small numbers of votes at an election (to the point of losing any candidate nomination deposit.) The method of voting can also assist or hinder a minor party's chances. For example, in an election for more than one member, the proportional representation method of voting can be advantageous to a minor party as can preference allocation from one or both of the major parties.
In the United States they are often described as third parties. Minor parties in the U.S. include the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, Constitution Party, and others that have less influence than the major parties. Since the American Civil War (1861–1865), the major parties have been the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Since 1860, six presidential candidates other than Republicans and Democrats have received over 10% of the popular vote, although one of them was a former president, Theodore Roosevelt.
|Third-Party Presidential Candidates, 1832-1996|
|Third-party candidates who received more than the historical average of 5.6 percent of the popular vote are listed below, three of which were former presidents (follow links for more information on their time as president).|
|Year||Candidate||Popular Vote %||Electoral Votes||Outcome in Next Election|
|1996||Reform||H. Ross Perot||8.4||0||Did not run; endorsed Republican candidate George W. Bush|
|1992||Independent||H. Ross Perot||18.9||0||Ran as Reform Party candidate|
|1980||Independent||John B. Anderson||6.6||0||Did not run|
|1972||Libertarian||John Hospers||0.0||1||Ran as a Libertarian, received one electoral vote from a faithless elector from Virginia|
|1968||American Independent||George C. Wallace||13.5||46||Won 1.4 percent of the popular vote|
|1924||Progressive||Robert M. La Follette||16.6||13||Returned to Republican Party|
|1912||Progressive ("Bull Moose")||Theodore Roosevelt||27.4||88||Returned to Republican Party|
|1912||Socialist||Eugene V. Debs||6||0||Won 3.2 percent of the popular vote|
|1892||Populist||James B. Weaver||8.5||22||Endorsed Democratic candidate|
|1860||Constitutional Union||John Bell||12.6||39||Party dissolved|
|1860||Southern Democrats||John C. Breckinridge||18.1||72||Party dissolved|
|1856||American ("Know-Nothing")||Millard Fillmore||21.5||8||Party dissolved|
|1848||Free Soil||Martin Van Buren||10.1||0||Won 4.9 percent of the vote|
|1832||Anti-Masonic||William Wirt||7.7||7||Endorsed Whig candidate|
|Percentages in bold are those over 10% in elections since 1860.|
Minor parties in Australia owe much of their success to the proportional representation method of voting. This allows minor parties to achieve at least one quota in the electorate or state and thus gain representation in a parliamentary chamber. Often minor parties have been so successful in gaining such representation that they are able to hold the balance of power in the particular house of the parliament (usually the Australian Senate. Some examples are the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) in the 1960s and early 1970s and the Australian Democrats in the late 1970s and the 1980s.
- Third-Party Candidates Can Influence U.S. Presidential Elections, America.gov, 20 August 2007. (Information derived from the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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