The United States has two major political parties, the Republicans and democrats. Third party politicians are not common on many ballots and hold very few positions within local, state and national governing bodies. A strong third political party would offer many advantages and disadvantages when it comes to elections and the repercussions it may have on elections.
Advantage: Increases Choice
Having candidates that represent other political parties outside Republican and Democrat increases voter choice. In most elections for local, state and national elections the voters must select from only two choices. The voter may abstain from voting if the two choices are not to the voters liking. A third party gives the voter another option to select from that may better represent the personal preferences and morals the voter holds.
Advantgage: Separates Candidates
Many times the differences between a Republican and Democratic candidate are very small. For example, in the 1996 election both Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole and Democratic President Bill Clinton ran on very similar economic platforms. A third party ensures that the two dominating parties will either move from there positions or allows the third party candidate to create his own niche platform that differs from the other candidates.
Disadvantage: Split Votes
In 1992 Ross Perot was a third party candidate running versus Republican President George H.W. Bush and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. The result was that Ross Perot split the conservative vote which typically is Republican and was a factor in Bill Clinton winning the presidency. Third parties typically do not win a large percentage of the vote but can take votes from one party or another which can swing an election.
Disadvantage: Electoral College
If a third party candidate were to win a number of states in a presidential election it may result in no candidate winning a majority of electoral votes after the election. If this happened, one candidate may tell his electoral college voters to vote for another candidate, or the House of Representatives may vote for the president. Another option could be a run-off, or special election, which would take additional time and money.