Third party candidates not on the debate stage

Jeff Burnett, Staff Writer

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The Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Sept. 16 that third party presidential candidates former Gov. Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, and Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, did not qualify for the first debate.

The CPD is extending invitations to both presidential nominees Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton along with their running mates, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, D-Virginia.

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” said Shane Graham, UIS chapter president of Young Americans for Liberty, speaking as a member of the community and not on behalf of the YAL organization. “I am surprised however, that not being invited to the stage has actually garnered more attention to both Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Both candidates have utilized their resources well and are bouncing back.”

Johnson and Stein did not meet the committee’s 15 percent threshold in five nationally selected polls in order to qualify. The candidates averaged 8.4 and 3.2 percent, respectively, when the decision was made.

“The commission is fooling the voter into thinking the commission is independent and non-partisan. They created an arbitrary 15 percent [sic] polling barrier to stifle competition, and prevent a real debate about the future of this country,” said Stein in a statement. “That’s two-party tyranny, not democracy.”

Lex Green, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Illinois, said that he would support other options to give third party candidates a chance to participate in the main debates, such as having ballot access in all 50 states or setting a dollar amount on funds raised or spent.

“Ultimately it isn’t fair to voters to exclude ideas that could potentially provide solutions to our problems,” said Green.

Johnson said in a statement he was not surprised about the CPD’s decision to “exclude” him from the first presidential debate and it is “unfortunate,” but that he intends to be in the October debate.

“I think their optimism and driving force as a third party is to be respected greatly,” said Graham. “As long as he remains consistent and truly provides a third voice, there isn’t a clear reason why he won’t be included on the debate stage.”

Stein’s campaign is organizing a civil protest of the debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, where the event is being held and calling on its supporters to escort the Green Party candidates into the event.

“We will be at the debate to insist that Americans not only have a right to vote, but we have a right to know who we can vote for,” said Stein.

Earlier this month, the Johnson campaign took out a full page advertisement in The New York Times in the form of an open letter asking for a third podium at the debate.

“It was a nice ad. But it shows that we can’t talk issues, but instead have to spend our money talking about the political process,” said Green.

Stein’s campaign has held three debate protests, most recently at the CPD headquarters in Washington, DC.

“The people have lost faith in public institutions. They are losing confidence in the integrity of elections,” said Stein. “Now the people are being told that only two choices can be heard.”

Real Clear Politics, a popular polling data aggregator, currently has Johnson polling at 8.6 percent and Stein at 3.1 percent.

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