In response to political gridlock and a looming presidential election year, a national campaign called Change the Rule is working towards including a third-party or independent candidate in future presidential debates.
A group of more than 40 current and former elected officials, law makers, military officials, diplomats and business and academic leaders from both sides of the aisle are working together on the campaign. Change the Rule is led by Stanford University political director Larry Diamond and former federal prosecutor Alexandra Shapiro.
Change the Rule sent letters to board members of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) in January, requesting that they remove some of the barriers facing candidates who aren’t running as Democrats or Republicans.
The letter, which is now public, read in part: “Because the current rule affords independent candidates no chance to get into the debates, it dissuades men and women with extraordinary records of service to this country from running for President.
“As a director of the CPD, you could ignore this complaint and wait for the ensuing legal process to play out. We think that would be a missed opportunity and an unfortunate mistake.”
The group received a two-sentence letter in reply, thanking them for their input, The Hill reported.
Change the Rule has made the fight public to provoke CPD into taking action. CPD consists of 17 unelected members who are described by activists as a “secretive, quasi-official group.”
Currently, the CPD requires nonmajor party candidates to receive 15 percent of the vote in five sperate polls before they’re allowed to join the debate. The last time a nonmajor party candidate was allowed to participate in a presidential debate was in 1992.
Change the Rule estimates a nonmajor party candidate would have to spend about $300 million to obtain the support needed to join the debates. The group also advocates for an addendum that would allow any candidate who gets on the ballot in states with a total of 270 electoral votes to quality for the debates. The candidate would need to acquire 4 to 6 million signatures.
“The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates reviews its candidate selection criteria every election cycle,” said CPD executive director Janet Brown in a statement. “The CPD will review its 2012 criteria in 2015 and appreciates the interest in these important voter education events.”