It’s More Important Than Ever that We Let Johnson & Stein Debate

Originally published in the OC Register–Brian Calle & Yuri Vanetik.

Spattered throughout the bowels of Twitter, people are, as always, embroiled in a heated argument. Unlike much of the back-and-forth on social media, however, the weight of the presidential race is becoming a serious concern. Between #NeverTrump and #HillaryForPrison, many Americans feel that they are stuck between two uninspiring choices. The unconventional Republican candidate, Donald Trump, is making questionable comments, while the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, is tarnished with numerous scandals and political intrigue – with disapproval for both reaching record-breaking highs.

In our country’s current political reality, we have bifurcated choices: Republican or Democratic, Clinton or Trump. Of any presidential cycle, this would be the year where a third choice – a third party, perhaps – could act as a real option, an alternate to the “lesser of two evils” feeling that now plagues many Americans.

Enter the Libertarian and Green parties, third parties with presidential nominees Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, respectively. But for either Johnson or Stein to gain traction or credibility amongst the larger electorate, they would need to be in the presidential debates, which some analysts estimate will have higher viewership than the Super Bowl this year. But to be granted a spot in the debates each candidate would have to garner 15 percent in select presidential election polls.

More specifically, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced in August the five nationwide polls that will be averaged to determine whether a candidate meets its threshold to be offered a seat on stage in the debates, the first of which is scheduled for September 26. The five polls the commission will average are ABC-Washington Post, CBS-New York Times, CNN-Opinion Research Corporation, Fox News and NBC-Wall Street Journal.

Both Johnson and Stein are well below the 15 percent threshold. Johnson is polling somewhere around the 8 percent mark – just past the halfway point to the 15 percent that would allow him to be recognized as a legitimate candidate by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

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