For as long as most Americans can remember, our politics have been dominated by the two-party system. Democrats and Republicans have typically gotten the majority of the shine during election season, but third-party candidates have made their voices heard throughout our history.
And though headlines have focused on the presidential grudge match between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney during this cycle, more than two-thirds of voters will see a possibly unfamiliar name when they go to the polls on Tuesday: Dr. Jill Stein.
Running as the Green Party candidate, Stein has made it onto 85 percent of the ballots this year, despite not being invited to participate in any of the televised debates and rarely getting mentioned in mainstream media reports on the race.
During a recent interview with MTV News' Power of 12, Stein described the Green Party as a "party of the people" that doesn't take any money from political action committees, corporations or lobbyists. "We have the unique ability to just be what people are about and what people are clamoring for ... basically it's a party for people, peace and the planet," she told MTV News.
As part of her platform, Stein called for 25 million new jobs in the green economy to get America back to work, as a means of solving the climate and employment emergencies at once. In an appeal to young voters, she also advocated a "Medicare For All" system, which she said will save the government $1 trillion, as well as free public higher education for all.
"We provided a high school education for free throughout the 20th century, but now it's the 21st century and, you know what? A high school degree doesn't cut it, you need a college degree for economic security," she said, calling for a bailout of student loan debt rather than more money to bail out the big banks. Stein also wants to end the war on drugs and shift to treating drug abuse and dependency as a public and mental health problem, not a criminal one.
With half of eligible Americans not expected to vote on Tuesday, Stein said they are essentially voting with their feet, saying, "these candidates don't represent me." Because of what she called the "monopoly" held by the two main parties, Stein said most Americans are not aware of the Greens. "I think they're [Democrats and Republicans] quaking in their boots that word gets out and it goes viral, because we could see this election turned on its head."
The Harvard-educated author of the climate reports "In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development" and "Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging," learned firsthand just how frozen out she is of the system when she was arrested for trying to attend the second presidential debate at Hofstra University two weeks ago. She said that after pressing for answers from the debate commission on why she was not included on the stage alongside Obama and Romney, she was arrested and put in plastic zip cuffs, taken to a secret "national security site," handcuffed to chairs and surrounded by 16 officers for hours.
"What's wrong with this picture? This is not what democracy looks like," Stein said when asked how she felt about being on nearly all the national ballots while remaining barely known to most voters.
"It makes me feel like the voters out there, who feel like they don't have choices and they don't have a voice," said Stein, whose full time staff numbers in the low single digits, rising up to 20 when part-time help is factored in. "Because as an independent party that's not running on banker money and fossil fuel money and health insurance money I can talk about what voters are demanding and I feel awful. I feel like it's not fair. But more than to the candidates, it's not fair to the voters."
In addition to Stein, the other notable third party candidates vying for the presidency include Libertarian party nominee Gary Johnson, Constitution Party nominee and former Virginia congressman Virgil Goode and Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson.
With the election less than a week away, stick with MTV's Power of 12 throughout Tuesday's voting for results, analysis and reports from Chicago and Boston on election night.