Skip to main content

TV Debates: Still Beyond the Fringe

The organizers of presidential debates may continue to exclude fringe candidates.

Those organizers may continue to require candidates to show that they have substantial support among voters, according to a new ruling by Federal Election Commission lawyers.

The ruling upholds the Commission on Presidential Debates' policy of permitting only candidates who demonstrate in recognized polls that they have the support of 15% of registered voters. The policy was previously uphold in 2000 after a challenge by Pat Buchanan.

This time a supporter of Constitution Party candidate Michael Petrouka complained that the commission's 15% threshold is "partisan" and a deliberate attempt to avoid prevent viable candidates from outside the major parties to get their message before American voters.

But the general counsel for the FEC reiterated commission policy that consideration of a candidate's electoral support among the criteria for debate eligibility is no unreasonable or subjective.

The Commission on Presidential Debates is a nonprofit corporation founded in 1987 to sponsor the the presidential and vice presidential debates, which have become a televised, roadblocked even at election time.

To participate in the commission's debates, a candidate must have the support of at least 15% of the electorate, as measured by five national public opinion polling organizations.