We talked about this in last week's issue and in this press release, and were pleased to see Libertarian Party 2012 presidential nominee Gary Johnson echo the message in an email sent during the debate.
Here's an excerpt from Governor Johnson's email (via this Washington Examiner piece):
"...the reality is that a news network arbitrarily decided that there was only room for 10 candidates on the prime-time stage, as opposed to 9 or 12 or 17. And then a small group of pollsters got to decide who those 10 prime-time candidates would be -- even though all but 3 of the 17 candidates were within the error margins of one another in the polls.
In short, some candidates made it to the main stage and some didn't in a process that was decided by who answered the phone and who didn't when the pollsters called. As one of the excluded candidates pointed out, if LeBron James was in the race, he would have made it onto the debate stage on the basis of name ID alone.
That's just wrong. Using public opinion polls to narrow the field -- before voters even have a chance to hear from the candidates -- is an outrage. Voters should make their own decisions about which candidates they want to see and hear in the debates.
But unless we act now, the same outrage will occur next year in the far more important general election debates, as it did in 2012 and every other presidential election since 1992. Just like Fox News is doing tonight, the Commission on Presidential Debates will use polls to exclude everyone but the Democrat and Republican candidates from the debate stage."
The problem is not only that they use polling - it's also that under the CPD's current rule independents or third party candidates do not qualify until just two weeks before the debates. At the same time the Republican and Democratic candidates benefit enormously from all the media attention devoted to their primary races and conventions. That is unfair and damaging to our democracy.
Level the Playing Field, a non-profit and non-partisan group, filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission in June, seeking to have it force the CPD to perform its stated "non-partisan" mission and use "objective criteria to decide who can participate in debates." We presented massive amounts of new evidence showing that the rule the CPD has used since 2000 forces candidates to meet an impossible polling threshold only 7 weeks before the election.
Our experts looked back at nearly 1,000 polls in three way races and found them to be grossly inaccurate. That's right - our evidence shows that even if a candidate did reach 15 percent in the polls - he or she would have a 40% chance of being excluded from the debates based on polling errors.
Are we really going to let inaccurate polls determine who has a chance to be President of the United States?
In Governor Johnson's words: "Using public opinion polls to narrow the field -- before voters even have a chance to hear from the candidates -- is an outrage."
CPD co-chair Frank Fahrenkopf, former head of the Republican Party, has admitted that "there's no question the American people are unhappy with both political parties... they're unhappy with the whole political environment, and they want change."
But for more than ten months, the CPD - defying a two-to-one majority of Americans who want an independent on the debate stage next fall - has stonewalled our attempts to open the debates to a third, independent candidate and improve the health of American democracy.
REMEMBER: NO CANDIDATE WHO DID NOT COMPETE IN A PRIMARY HAS SCALED A 15 PERCENT BARRIER (OR EVEN A 10 PERCENT BARRIER) SINCE THE TELEVISED DEBATES BEGAN IN 1960.
Enough time has been wasted.
The CPD needs to take action now to give Americans the greater choice and competition they want in the 2016 presidential election.