Are you talking in terms of winning state electoral votes? Or electoral votes in the election as a whole? For the former, it's up to each state to determine how its electoral votes are awarded. For the latter, you can't win unless you get more than 50% of the electoral votes. That's largely why we have a two party system. We could get away with more parties in congress, but we can only have two major parties competing for the White House.
idiggory, King of Bards wrote:
You can still win a majority of electoral votes even if you aren't over 50%...
No, you can't. A majority means "more than 50%". A plurality
means "he who got the most".
The reason you can really only have two parties compete
(yes, that word is important) for the White House is because our system requires that the winner receive a majority (meaning "more than 50%" in case you forgot) of the electoral votes.
All a serious third party candidate does is take votes away from the guy closest to him politically, thus preventing either of them from being competitive in the race.
And, of course, we have systems in place to allow for the election of a president that includes the three leading competitors. So it's not like a third party can't get into the white house. Quite the opposite in fact.
Except that somewhat by definition, the guy who wins can never be the "third party" candidate
. Else he wouldn't be the third party candidate, he'd be the candidate of one of the two major parties least like the third party candidate. The pressure to avoid having congress choose who the president and vice president are ensures that the overwhelming majority of voters will align into a party capable of achieving a majority. This in turn results in two major parties representing those voters and competing to win the election.
In such a system, you are wasting your vote if you vote for a third party candidate for president. You are vastly better off figuring out which party is closest to your beliefs and working within that party to put forth candidates who represent what you want. Having a small influence on a party which could win is better than having a larger influence on a party which can't. Obviously, if we're talking about local and even state elections it's a different ballgame, but the fastest way to ensure that your opinions will *never* influence federal level policy is to vote third party because it's slightly more in line with your own beliefs than one of the major parties. Not only will your guy not win, but if enough people do this, then you ensure that the party that you disagree with *most* will win.