CPD Offers Token Response Under Pressure to Open Presidential Debates

In response to public pressure, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) may soon lower the polling threshold from 15% to 10% for inclusion in next year’s final presidential debates according to Presidential Debate News published by Level the Playing Field.

“Don’t be fooled” it warns, noting that the new rule would ensure that independents will remain excluded.

Some of the pressure is coming from a lawsuit against the FEC that seeks to force the CPD to change the rules for inclusion. The Libertarian and Green Parties, Peter Ackerman (who headed Americans Elect in 2012) and Level the Playing Field are co-plaintiffs.

A separate lawsuit is expected to be filed by Fair Debates next week, a project of Our America Initiative headed by 2012 Libertarian presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson, against the FEC in which the Libertarian and Green Parties are also co-plaintiffs.

Presidential Debate News explains why a 10% polling threshold would continue to serve the purpose of excluding candidates beyond the two nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties:

The change in admissions standards that the CPD may approve will have little or no effect on real-life results, which, for the past 23 years, have been that only two contestants, one Democrat and one Republican, are admitted to the debate stage.

…Merely changing the polling threshold …from 15% to 10% will not address the structural impediment to a truly fair and competitive presidential election.

…The CPD [examines] polls taken only two weeks before the first presidential debate; that is, just six or seven weeks before the election itself…[making] it impossible for an independent candidate to earn the media coverage necessary to build name recognition, which is the prerequisite for polling at any level.

… By contrast, if an independent candidate were known to be in the debates six months before the elections, that candidate would garner significant media coverage and would be in a position to compete on a more level playing field with the Republican and Democratic candidates.

A study by Cliff Young of IPSOS found that, in order to achieve [10%] support in a presidential poll, the candidate would have to achieve name recognition with at least [73%] of voters.

IPSOS also found that, in a three-way race, if a candidate is actually polling at 10% or above, there is a 50% chance that survey results will show that candidate polling below 10%…

No candidate for president who has not participated in major-party primaries and debates has polled at 10% six weeks before the election in more than a half-century. (Ross Perot in September 1992 was polling at 8%; John Anderson, a Change the Rule signer, exceeded the threshold in 1980 but he ran in Republican primaries.)

…The new criterion will …let the CPD, dominated as it is by [Democrats and Repubilcans,] accomplish the result of keeping out an independent by different means than a literal, flat-out ban.

…10% in September is worse than the status quo because it gives the false impression that the CPD is responding to the demands of the public for change. It does no such thing.

“Using unreliable, late-in-the-election-cycle polls to determine who’s in or out of presidential debates is just another barrier that Democrats and Republicans are using to protect themselves from competition,” said Nicholas Sarwark, Chair of the Libertarian Party. “But it’s good the CPD is feeling pressure, as it should. Legitimate polls show, over and over, that Americans are fed up with the two old parties and want more choices.”

Congratulations to the winners of our Presidential Debate straw poll and thank you to everyone who participated! Use the bottom below to view the results!