When it comes to voting in the U.S .in the 21st century, there are two well known parties, the Democrats and the Republicans.
But during this historic 2016 election season of all time lows, political rhetoric and fear, the American people are finding themselves conflicted on voting for the lesser of two evils.
They are almost entirely unfamiliar with their options for third party candidates as well. Megan Zapanta, a volunteer for a local non-profit who helps register voters said she hears students say they don’t know who to vote for and they don’t want to vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
“This is the reason why they don’t want to vote, and they are unaware of their options,” Zapanta said.
On the ballot in California there are three additional parties and their respective candidates.
The Libertarian Party is the third largest nationally organized party, forming in December 1971 out of concern about the Nixon administration, the Vietnam war and the draft.
Its platform of maximum freedom and minimum government includes lowering taxes, abolishing the IRS, eliminating the welfare state, ending prohibition of illegal drugs, supporting same-sex marriage, ending capital punishment and gun ownership rights.
Gary Johnson, 63, the 2016 presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, served as the Republican governor of New Mexico for eight years.
He believes in no governmental funding for abortions but will leave the decision up to women. Johnson also wants to balance the budget by cutting entitlements and defense, ending the Federal Reserve, fracking, coal mining and nuclear plants. He supports individual liberties, equal pay for equal work, zero corporate tax and private prisons.
The former governor ran in the 2012 presidential election receiving 1.3 million votes, more than any minor candidate and the most in Libertarian Party history.
The Green Party is the fourth largest nationally organized party, founded in April 2001.
Its progressive platform is based on four pillars — peace, ecology, social justice and democracy. This encompasses non-violence and anti-war, human interaction with nature and climate change, equal rights and opportunities, and a democracy where all humans can make their own decisions.
Jill Stein, 66, is the Green Party’s 2016 presidential nominee. She served as the representative of the Lexington, Massachusetts Town Meeting in 2005 and 2008.
She is an activist and a practicing physician who believes health care is a right, protecting the woman’s right to choose, reducing spending via military cuts and preventative health care.
Stein also champions a 90 percent tax on bonuses for bailed out banks, ending racism and police militarization, and free college education.
In 2012 Stein ran for the presidency, receiving 469,501 votes and only reaching one percent of the electorate in Maine, Oregon and Alaska.
The Peace and Freedom Party is a left-wing organization founded in California in June 1967 out of disapproval with the Vietnam war.
It is on the ballot in more than 12 states including Florida, Colorado and Hawaii. Its party platform is committed to socialism, pro-peace politics, democracy, ecology, feminism and racial equality. This includes protecting the environment, maintaining aboriginal rights and Native American treaties, a socialist style health care system and employment, and socialist-run economy.
Gloria Estela La Riva. 62, is the presidential nominee for the Peace and Freedom Party and an American activist. She first ran in 1992 as a third party presidential candidate for the Workers World Party, as well as its vice-presidential candidate in the elections of 1984, 1988, 1996 and 2000.
La Riva supports women’s reproductive rights and abortions on demand, and rational social and economic planning rather than it being left to be determined by the open market.
She also advocates for paying reparations with interest for slavery, opposes capital punishment and wants a shutdown of most prisons.
La Riva received the 10th highest votes totaling 6,821 during the 2008 presidential election.
Contra Costa College criminal justice major Pablo Serrano said among the minor parties, he’s only heard of the Libertarian Party.
“People are unfamiliar with third parties because they aren’t on debates or talked about on TV,” he said.
CCC political science professor Vanna Gonzales said because of the two party system, it’s an uphill battle for third party candidates.
“Electoral incentives are against outsiders,” she said. The way the states determine rules for the Electoral College creates a setback for alternative parties. The procedures and the popular vote by state being winner-take-all, causes the strength of third parties to weaken, Gonzales said.
According to the Federal Election Committee (FEC), if a third party gets over 15 million votes, which is 5 percent of the popular vote, it becomes eligible for public funding in the next election cycle.
When it comes to the presidential debates, which have been taken over by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) in 1987, third party candidates have not excelled.
No candidate has been included in the debates since 2001, when CPD made it mandatory for candidates to appear on enough state ballots while polling at 15 percent in at least five national polls. The barriers of bias in Electoral College rules, coupled with restrictions by the FEC and CPD, make it nearly impossible for the American public to get a chance to know any third party candidate.
Gonzales said when things are institutionalized it becomes difficult to change them, like with the setup of primaries and district voting. Those are institutional advantages that outsiders won’t have to help their campaigns.
“By design we live in a two party system,” Gonzalez said. “We should live in a multiple party system, especially if you look at the goals of a democracy.”
Only 50 percent of eligible voters will vote, Gonzales said. It’s a missed opportunity for significant direction with the 17 state propositions and a large number of seats vacant in the U.S. Senate.
Alex Griffin, president of CCC Community Organizing and Political Action club, said third party candidates rarely get mentioned, but students should know more about them because it gives variety and options at the polls.
“The two party system shows that America has to take a few more steps in the political process in order for it to grow and incorporate new ideas and different perspectives,” Griffin said.
CCC business major Zoila Sanchez said it’s unfair that third party candidates are not represented.
“You feel like you have to vote for only two candidates and that’s not what America is all about,” she said.
She said she is voting for Johnson because as she learned more about him she believes he has the best interests for the country and without being in the spotlight, he would give more.