CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Can you name the presidential candidates on the ballot in North Carolina?
If you said Donald Trump and Joe Biden, you’re correct.
But if those are the only two you named, you’re wrong.
What some people don’t realize is that there are five candidates to choose from when you vote for president in North Carolina.
Don Blankenship, Howie Hawkins and Jo Jorgenson are candidates for president and they’re all on the ballot in North Carolina.
Blankenship is running for the Constitution party, Hawkins for the Green party and Jorgenson for the Libertarian party.
But clearly, the Democratic and Republican parties dominate the political landscape.
Chris Cooper, the Robert Lee Madison Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, says those third-party candidates have little chance of winning because the Democratic and Republican parties dominate the political landscape.
“Everything we do as a country, all of our electoral rules are set up to keep these two parties in power," Cooper said. "You may like one of them more than the other...you probably like one of them more than the other...but it is extremely difficult in our system for any third-party candidate to get through.”
The dominance of the two parties is never more clear than in the presidential debates.
For a candidate to be included, he or she must garner at least 15 percent support across five national polls, which basically eliminates parties other than the Democrats and Republicans.
“We don’t know about these candidates, therefore they can’t win," Cooper said. "Well, at some point we have to have an opportunity to learn more about them and that’s what debates can provide. And until they’re let in the debates, again it’s another structural impediment to multi-party representation.”
So with the odds stacked against them, why run as a third-party candidate?
“I think they see their role more as party building, saying, ‘Hey, we’re third-party candidates but we still matter.' And I think that really is their goal, reminding us that there are more than two options, even if right now those two options are the only ones that really can win," Cooper said.
However, even if a third-party candidate doesn’t win North Carolina they can still have a significant impact.
It’s possible they might pull a small, but potentially critical number of votes away from one of the two major candidates.
And since the race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden is razor-thin in North Carolina, that could mean the difference between winning and losing.