A group of former lawmakers, public officials and academics dissatisfied with the two-party political system is calling for the Commission on Presidential Debates
(CPD) to enable viable independent candidates to take part in its forums, Politico
The group wants to "open up the political process and fundamentally improve the way we pick our president and vice president," according to a letter sent to the commission
Its goal is to give a viable independent candidate an opportunity to gain the attention that comes from nationally televised debates.
The "Change the Rule" campaign
is backed by financier Peter Ackerman
and by Aaron Lobel of American Abroad Media,
a project supported by Ackerman.
The 50 or so prominent figures who signed the letter to the commission include former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden, former Nebraska Sen. Robert Kerrey, former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, and retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
Lieberman told Politico that the two-party system "needs to be challenged." The commission's policy of limiting debate to candidates who average 15 percent in select national polls was an "unfair obstacle," he said, and disproportionately reflects the Republican and Democratic Party base.
Without doing away with the existing 15 percent polling criteria, the campaign would add an alternative: Debates may be open to candidates who, by April 30 of an election year, can show that their names are on enough state ballots to collectively — if theoretically — gain the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win the presidency, Politico reported.
In the case of multiple third-party candidates who are eligible, a signature competition decides, so that "whoever has gathered the most signatures as part of the ballot access process will participate in the debates with the Democratic and Republican nominees," the letter reads.
Dorothy Ridings, a member of the CPD board of directors
, said the commission had given thought to how well its current policy on debate participation serves democracy and is open to new ideas.
She did not think, however, that signatures were necessarily a good way to establish a candidate's worthiness to take part in the debates because "signatures are too easy to buy," Politico reported.
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