Former US presidential candidate and current Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has called on the country’s election officials to ease debate qualification for third-party candidates.
Sanders told NBC on Sunday that the 15-percent polling threshold required for the presidential debates was “probably too high” for Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Since the 2000 election cycle, the US Commission on Presidential Debates has set a 15-percent threshold that the candidates need to reach in an average of five national polls before qualifying for the debates that are traditionally held in autumn.
The commission says on its website that “the 15 percent threshold best balanced the goal of being sufficiently inclusive to invite those candidates considered to be among the leading candidates, without being so inclusive that invitations would be extended to candidates with only very modest levels of public support, thereby jeopardizing the voter education purposes of the debates.”
Sanders, who ran an impressive campaign against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primaries, did not suggest a different polling figure, but said the bar “probably should be lower.”
Johnson and Stein have spoken up against the debate rule that puts them in a disadvantaged position against Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, the two candidates who take advantage of the country’s two-party political system.
“If you’re not in the presidential debate, there’s no way you’re going to win the presidency, given that the first presidential debate is estimated to garner more viewership than the Super Bowl,” Johnson, who has been polling at high single digit numbers, said last week.
According to a Monmouth University poll released last week, the former governor of New Mexico grabbed 7 percent support, trailing Clinton and Trump with 46 percent and 39 percent. He was followed by Stein who garnered only 2 percent support.
Stein said during a Fox News interview on Sunday that the third-parties needed to be given a seat on the presidential debate stage in order to better inform voters.