Thanks to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for this post.
On September 11, 2014, Level the Playing Field ("LPF") asked the Federal Election Commission ("FEC") to issue regulations that would alter how presidential candidates gain access to general election debates.
Shapiro, Arato & Isserles represents Level the Playing Field in connection with its efforts to create an opportunity for an independent candidate to participate in the 2016 presidential debates. LPF is a non-profit, non-partisan corporation that seeks to enhance and strengthen our democracy by creating an opportunity for more competition in our political system. LPF is the successor to Americans Elect, which sought to nominate a nonpartisan presidential ticket in 2012. The law firm, Shapiro, Arato and Isserles, is a New York city law firm that was founded in part by two former U.S. Supreme Court Clerks. Level the Playing Field’s petition has already received the support of several prestigious organizations, including the Campaign Legal Center.
In response, the FEC invited members of the public to comment on the idea. That comment period ran from November 18 through December 15, so comments are now closed.
Level the Playing Field’s proposal contains a wealth of data showing that the status quo policy is not good policy.
The proposal suggest these changes:
- The Commission on Presidential Debates (“CPD”) will only invite a candidate to participate in the presidential debates if he or she is at 15% or higher in mid-September opinion polls on the premise that a candidate polling less than 15% is not a viable contender for the presidency.
The amendment should (A) preclude sponsors of general election presidential and vice-presidential debates from requiring that a candidate meet a polling threshold in order to be admitted to the debates; and (B) require that any sponsor of general election presidential and vice-presidential debates have a set of objective, unbiased criteria for debate admission that do not require candidates to satisfy a polling threshold to participate in debates.
- Signature method allows the independent or third party candidate that gathers the most signatures to participate in the debates, provided such candidate is on the ballot in states with more than 270 total Electoral College votes. Thus, one candidate could participate in the debates without having to raise the unprecedented levels of funding required to surpass the CPD’s polling threshold and be certain they had earned that right in the spring, giving them plenty of time to build support for their fall campaign.
CLICK HERE to read Level the Playing Field’s proposal.
CLICK HERE to read Fairvote’s analysis of the proposal.
A comment from a reader of Ballot Access News:
This is some progress. The signature option/requirement is a tentative step in the right direction, but I agree with Fairvote that more needs to happen.
If the signature requirement is to be used, it should be on the basis of a reasonable threshold instead whichever third party gets the most signatures, as requiring third parties such as the Libertarians, Greens, Constitutionals, as well as independents, to compete in that manner just to get into the debate would further divide them and lessen the electorate’s exposure to different points of view (one wonders if that is the intent there and Fairvote’s missing the bigger picture…).
As for the percentage requirement suggested by Fairvote, 5% might be doable, but a lot then depends on media coverage, as third parties and independents, especially the Greens, often don’t have a huge advertising budget. To that extent I think some sort of Fairness Doctrine needs to be brought back for election news coverage, so at the very least news organizations have to mention that other candidates exist or mention a source where people can find out what other candidates are in the race.
How would you change the debate requirements?
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!
Michael H. Drucker
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