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COLUMN: Don't count America's third parties out of the race yet

For many students, this election will be the first time they can decide who leads us as President of the United States. This makes the decision between the two least-liked candidates in American history much more difficult.

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, has been the face of controversy since he came into the race with his strong words and attitudes toward foreign relations. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, is dealing with an email scandal, Benghazi backlash and the lack of transparency of the Clinton Foundation. 

With all of these problems surrounding the two major party candidates, it seems possible, now more than ever, for a third-party candidate to have a clear shot at becoming the next president.

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is in third place with an estimated 10 percent of support from polled voters, according to recent polls. Those numbers aren’t high, but Johnson is doing moderately well considering his ticket as the third-party Libertarian nominee.

The former governor gained much of his approval not only by being another choice besides Trump and Clinton, but because of his policies. Johnson voiced his approval of the legalization of marijuana many times, citing the success of Colorado’s taxation program. He also received support for his thoughts on approving open carry laws across the U.S.

Coming down the final stretch toward Election Day on Nov. 8, Johnson gained plenty of momentum and electoral ground. The Libertarian Party nominee jumped up nearly 3 percent in the last week, according to RealClearPolitics. Although the candidate deserves applause for his rise in poll numbers, he is expected to plateau at some point.

This begs the question: can a third party candidate do it?

The answer is yes. Yes, they can.

Although he didn’t win on a third-party ticket, President Theodore Roosevelt ran on the Progressive Party ticket in 1912. He received nearly 30 percent of the popular vote — 4,119,207 votes total — but lost to President Woodrow Wilson of the Democratic Party. There was also another surge for third-party candidates in 1992 with independent candidate Ross Perot. He earned 19 percent of the popular vote, which again seems small, but was the strongest push since Roosevelt’s third-party run.

So for those who think voting for a third-party candidate is a way to throw away your vote: It is simply not true.

Do not vote for someone just because you do not like the other candidate. There are always more than two choices. It does not seem likely right now, but there is always a chance that a candidate like Gary Johnson could become our next president.