CPD Should Recognize Its Mistake And Let Gary Debate

The presidential campaign of Gov. Gary Johnson has officially accomplished something that hasn’t happened in 20 years: a third party candidacy achieved ballot access in all 50 states.

The Libertarian Party ticket of Johnson and Bill Weld (two, 2-term, Republican governors, from blue states) have support across the country, represent a distinctly different policy platform than the major party candidates (“fiscally responsible, socially inclusive”), and will be an option facing every voter on their election ballot this Fall.

Yet, as of today, you will not see them in the national presidential debates.

This is because these debates are controlled by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) which has decided to use polling as the deciding qualification.

The CPD is the not-for-profit, “non-partisan”, educational organization that has controlled production of US presidential candidate debates in the general election since 1988. Since 2000 they have maintained a rule that candidates must be at 15% in five national polls in order to reach the debate stage.

This may seem reasonable, intended to ensure only competitive candidates qualify. However, the truth is that the CPD (an organization created and run by Democrats and Republicans) has chosen as their ultimate qualifying criterion, a metric which is highly subject to behind the scenes manipulation and gaming.

Two examples of these distortions include:

  1. Youth and Independent Voters… A recent poll from CNN and ORC, included so few younger voters (18-34) that they couldn’t even estimate a percentage in their demographic breakdown. This is important for a candidate who has polled above 30% with this group (One In Three Young Voters Choose Johson Over Clinton Or Trump). Likewise, Fox just released a poll that, “…Drastically Under-Samples Independents…” According to Gallup, independents comprise between 40%-50% of the American electorate, however the average sampling of independents in Fox polls is only 17%. Gov. Johnson consistently polls between 20%-25% with independents (Libertarian Johnson Tops Clinton Amongst Independents)… Under-representation of constituencies causes serious distortions in results. It’s like including only 5% Republicans in a poll, and then reporting 95% support for Hillary.
  2. Poll Inclusion… Of the five polls designated by the Commission (CPD Announces Polls), only 3 have regularly included Johnson’s name. Fox has only included him twice and the CBS / New York Times polling group has only included Johnson once… It is simply impossible for a candidate to reach 15%, if CPD polls don’t ask about that candidate.

Given these and other handicaps, the fact that Gary Johnson is polling over 15% in 15 states and over 10% in 27 more (WaPo 50 State Poll) is remarkable. Further, he leads amongst groups such as voters under 25 (Johnson Rises To 1st Place) and the military (Johnson In First Place Among Active Duty Military And Veterans).

Numerous editorial boards (Editorials: “Let Gary Debate”) and leaders (including a member of the CPD, Daniels Wants Libertarian In Presidential Debates) have called for the libertarians to be on those stages. More importantly, over 62% of Americans want Johnson and Weld in the debates (Gary Johnson Support “Essentially Unmoved…”).

It took decades to develop the institutional structure and popular support necessary to gain access to ballots in every state and the District of Columbia. The Libertarian Party has earned the right to have their representatives heard and the American people deserve to hear their perspectives.

The Commission on Presidential Debates made an error designating an extremely flawed measure to decide who can be on the debate stages. If they are doing their job, they will admit to this mistake and give Gov. Gary Johnson a podium at the first debate on September 26th.

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