Third Parties, Anoka-Ramsey, and the Presidential Debates

Helen H. Richardson

Student Opinions on the Exclusion of Third Party Candidates from Presidential Debates

By: Maxwell Brown

Staff Writer

On Nov. 8, the US will elect its next president. While most of the attention is falling on republican and democratic candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, two other candidates have been receiving increasing coverage as well: libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party nominee

Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party nominee

Despite the increase in coverage on both candidates, the Commission on Presidential Debates made the controversial decision to exclude both third party nominees from participation in the debates.

Several Anoka-Ramsey students were interviewed about their thoughts on the controversy, and while they had different reasons for their opinions, almost all agreed that the debates should be more lenient in their acceptance of third party candidates.

“Anyone should be allowed to debate as long as they are on the ballot,” said Ryan Orn, an Anoka-Ramsey student.

The Commission on Presidential Debates currently uses three criteria to determine who is allowed to debate, and ballot access is a factor.

The requirements are that debaters must be constitutionally eligible to run for president, on the ballot in enough states to theoretically win in the Electoral College, and they must poll at an average of 15 percent in five national polls selected by the CPD.

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson at a Colorado rally

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson at a Colorado rally

While Johnson and Stein meet the first two requirements (Johnson is on the ballot in all 50 states, Stein in 44), both have polled well below the 15 percent benchmark (a Nov. 2 poll puts Johnson at 4 percent and Stein at 2 percent).

The sudden interest in third party candidates on campus could be representative of the fact that the Republican and Democratic nominees are quite unpopular.

According to student Crystal Malewicki, “It sucks. We need to know who to actually vote for, not just Dumb and Dumber.”

Both nominees have faced considerable criticism this election season, with several studies showing that both candidates have upwards of 50 percent disapproval ratings.

Despite their perceived unpopularity, both candidates have received massive amounts of media attention, more than what some believe is their fair share.

“We need to be educated on all of our options, not just the most famous,” said Kylee Timperley, a PSEO student.

While the media has been constantly tracking the activity of Trump and Clinton for over a year, reports on the third-party candidates are few and far between. So far, CNN has been the only major news network to host town halls for both the Libertarians and the Green Party.

Trump and Clinton at the third presidential debate in Las Vegas

Trump and Clinton at the third presidential debate in Las Vegas

A study from September found that coverage of their party candidates constitutes less than 1 percent of broadcast network airtime.

In addition to Trump and Clinton, over 25 presidential candidates will appear on at least one state ballot this year. While a third party win in this election cycle seems unlikely, many students at Anoka-Ramsey would like to know more about their options.