Politics isn't so simple these days. We've got the Greens and the Libertarians and even the tea party. Here are 10 facts about third parties, independents, write-ins and other challenges to the two-party system:
1 Nevada is the only state that includes "none of the above" as a ballot option. But if "none" finishes No. 1, the second-highest vote-getter wins.
2 A high point for third parties was 1912, when Teddy Roosevelt tried to win a third term in the White House because he was disgruntled with his successor, William Howard Taft. Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party beat Taft but lost to Woodrow Wilson. Roosevelt won 27 percent of the popular vote and got 88 electoral votes.
3 In 1967, the citizens of Picoaza, Ecuador, were treated to a series of advertisements with slogans such as "For Mayor: Honorable Pulvapies" and "Vote for any candidate, but if you want well-being and hygiene, vote for Pulvapies." The honorable Pulvapies was elected mayor by write-in votes, but could not take office. Why? Because Pulvapies was a foot powder.
4 For nearly seven years, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's husband, Todd, was a registered member of the Alaskan Independence Party, which advocates that state residents be allowed to vote on seceding from the United States.
5 Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs finished third in 1920 with 913,664 votes — about 3.5 percent of those cast — even though he couldn't go on the campaign trail or even vote for himself. Debs had been thrown in prison because he protested against American involvement in World War I.
6 When President Richard Nixon visited communist China in 1972, right-wing California politician John G. Schmitz quipped: "I have no objection to President Nixon going to China. I just object to his coming back." Schmitz was the American Independent Party's 1972 presidential candidate, winning more than 1 million votes. Many more millions have heard of Schmitz's daughter, whom he nicknamed "Cake." She is Mary Kay Letourneau, the teacher who was imprisoned for having sex with an underage pupil and married him upon her release.
7 By definition, the third-party route is an uphill battle. But for the crusading Victoria Claflin Woodhull, it was particularly daunting. Running as the Equal Rights Party presidential candidate in 1872, her most likely supporters — women — couldn't even vote.
8 Jesse Ventura, a former professional wrestler who shocked the political establishment in 1998 when he won the Minnesota gubernatorial race, may have been the first political candidate to launch his own action figure. One of his campaign ads featured two boys playing with custom-made Ventura action figures dressed in a suit. It didn't take long before the dolls were available for sale.
9 A third-party presidential candidate has never won a general election in Illinois — not even Rockford native Rep. John B. Anderson, who ran as an independent in 1980 against President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Anderson, who won just 7 percent of the vote in his home state, had become considerably more liberal since first being elected to the U.S. House in 1960. Early in his career, he repeatedly pushed a constitutional amendment that would have recognized "the law and authority of Jesus Christ."
10 When H. Ross Perot announced on "Larry King Live" in February 1992 that he would run for president if supporters got him on the ballot in all 50 states, the most surprised person may have been his wife, Margot.
Mark Jacob is a deputy metro editor at the Tribune; Stephan Benzkofer is the Tribune's weekend editor.
Sources: Presidency Project at University of California- Santa Barbara; National Heritage Museum; "Citizen Perot" by Gerald Posner; "The Bull Moose Years: Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Party," by John Allen Gable; "Encyclopedia of U.S. Campaigns, Elections, and Electoral Behavior, Volume 1," by Kenneth F. Warren; "Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent," by Ernest Freeberg; "Run the Other Way: Fixing the Two-Party System, One Campaign at a Time," by Bill Hillsman; "Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution," by Amanda Frisken; Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Los Angeles Times; Reuters; Rockford Register Star; Washington Post; snopes.com; u-s-history.com; uselectionatlas.org; and akip.org.