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Petition: the Commission on Presidential Debates

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Isn't variety the spice of life In August, 2008 a nationwide Zogby poll of likely voters revealed that 55% would like to see Libertarian Party presidential nominee Bob Barr included in the presidential debates. The same poll revealed that 46% would like to see independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader included in the presidential debates. Only John McCain and Barack Obama have been contacted to arrange a debate format and schedule. It is expected that only John McCain and Barack Obama will be permitted to debate. Who is responsible for excluding other candidates from debates Some people believe the "Debate Commission" is an official government agency. In fact; it's a private, non-profit organization. The Commission on Presidential Debates (http://www.debates.org) was founded in 1987 by Paul G. Kirk, Jr. (former Chairmen of the Democratic Party) and Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. (former Chairmen of the Republican Party). According to the CPD Mission Statement: "The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates...provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners..." The CPD requires candidates to have a level of support of at least 15% (fifteen percent) of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations' most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination to qualify for any of the forums. Unfortunately the CPD appears to believe "the best possible information" must be revealed only via a popularity contest that is controlled by media corporations. This sounds fair. What's wrong with a requirement of 15% in the polls Opinion polls only ask "likely voters" or "registered voters" for their opinions; yet, in spite of our proud heritage, a staggering number of Americans do not participate in the electoral process. There are a variety of reasons for this; including dissatisfaction with government, and dissatisfaction with the way elections are conducted. Up to half of the vote-eligible population chooses not to vote. This means many Americans are not represented by the opinion polls the CPD uses to restrict access to the presidential debates. This requirement is also in addition to the other requirement (the one supported by the Constitution) that the candidate must have his/her name appear on enough state ballots to have at least a mathematical chance of securing an Electoral College majority in the general election. Under the Constitution, the candidate who receives a majority of votes in the Electoral College, at least 270 votes, is elected President regardless of the popular vote. Ok, this 15% rule might not be fair to candidates, but how does this effect me It means that even after a alternative candidate has gathered tens of thousands of voter signatures from all across the US in order to rightfully gain ballot access in enough states to actually be elected your president, the CPD still will not allow you, the citizens who signed those petitions, to hear that candidate debate for the election that they've already qualified to run in. The 15% requirement is also three times higher than the threshold that candidates must reach to qualify for taxpayers' funds. In other words, taxpayers' hard earned money will be used to subsidize the campaigns of candidates that the taxpayers won't even be allowed to watch debate. What about the media Why isn't there more serious coverage of alternative candidates The national press seems to have adopted the same popularity requirements that are used by the CPD. The media understands that the debates are critical to informing voters of their choices. If a candidate is struggling to reach this requirement the media doesn't seem very interested in covering that candidate's campaign. The media also understands that, with virtual 24-hour coverage of the Democratic and Republican candidates (almost to the point of absurdity), the sparse coverage of alternative candidates does not give the public adequate exposure to them or their ideas. Then, sadly, if and when alternative candidates are finally discussed the discussion often focuses primarily on their low polling numbers and the impact their campaign will have on the two major party candidates. They are almost never asked about real issues in the few minutes of airtime they get. Why Because talking about real issues won't pay the bills, but high dollar campaign ads from the two major parties will. I'm beginning to understand the problem. What else do I need to know If more issues were discussed and debated, if more points-of-view were permitted to be heard, and if all serious candidates on the ballot nationwide were given an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process; then more Americans might decide to join the ranks of "likely voters" or "registered voters." Then, and only then, would opinion polls be capable of more accurately reflecting public support for alternative candidates. The Commission on Presidential Debates has adopted debate participation criteria that allow the public to learn about alternative candidates only after the public has already demonstrated support for those candidates. This logic is clearly backwards. When coupled with the sparse media coverage of the alternative candidates, it ensures that only wealthy individuals who can afford to purchase public exposure (such as Ross Perot; the only alternative candidate that has ever participated in a CPD debate) will have a chance of meeting the criteria. The Commission's 15% criteria might make more sense if the media did an adequate job of informing the public of their electoral choices, but the media is failing to fully and fairly perform its mandated public service responsibilities. In light of this obvious issue we believe it's time to take action. Presidential elections are far too important to simply wait around for the process to change; especially when this process is being controlled by private organizations like the media and the CPD. There's more than enough room for additional points-of-view on the national stage, and it distorts our system of government when many of those points-of-view are intentionally silenced. Will you join us in demanding free and fair presidential debates What can I do to help Sign this petition. Note: at the bottom of the form you must enter the petition password [1789] this is to thwart spammers. What's the significance of 1789 1789 was the year of the first presidential election under the Constitution.




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