Can America break out of the two-party system?

By Janelle Smith, Contributor

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The two-party system of Democrats and Republicans has dominated for the better part of the last century. Before this domination we saw the rise and fall of many other political parties. The Constitution did not set up or put limits on how many political parties there could be, so the continued domination of the current two-party system is not guaranteed.

The United States currently has 19 established political parties. Six of those parties have nominees in the 2016 presidential race. In addition to the six nominees, there are 23 plus Independent candidates running. However, who is on the ballot varies state to state.

According to, The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was formed in 1987 and has sponsored general election presidential debates in every election since 1988. The CPD says their “primary mission is to ensure, for the benefit of the American electorate, that general election debates are held every four years between and among the leading candidates for the office of president and vice president of the United States.” For the 2016 election the CPD set three criteria to be eligible to participate in the debates:

  • Being constitutionally eligible
  • Appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning at majority vote in the Electoral College
  • Have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations most recently publicly-reported results at the time of the determination

These criteria must be met prior to each debate to be able to participate according to the CPD. There are three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate. This year they were scheduled for:

If you missed the first three they are available to watch on YouTube.

While setting criteria is necessary it is often difficult for party nominees to meet the criteria due to a lack of media coverage. A possible solution to this would be to add a fourth debate early in September with all official nominees being invited so they all have a fair and equal chance to introduce themselves and where they stand on the issues to the American people. After the first debate the criteria to participate in additional debates could then be applied. If this was done it would not only help non democrat and republican nominees get their names and messages out there, but it would also help the American people be more informed about who their choices are.

In the state of Ohio there will be five choices in the 2016 presidential election:

Please read up on your choices and vote. We don’t have to remain stuck in a two-party system when other choices might be better.

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