Original post at http://www.gp.org/newsroom/press-releases/details/4/819

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Green Party of the United States has joined in a lawsuit filed in a federal district court in Washington, D.C. on Monday alleging that third-party and independent candidates have been illegally excluded from the televised presidential debates in general elections.

The lawsuit charges that the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) and certain of its directors have violated federal election law, including a Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulation requiring organizations like the CPD to be “nonpartisan” and to use “objective criteria” to determine who can be in their debates.

The federal court complaint cites extensive evidence showing that the CPD is not nonpartisan and instead promotes the candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties while excluding all others from the debates, and that since 2000 it has used a criterion that only the Democratic and Republican nominees could reasonably achieve in order to illegally exclude third-party and independent candidates from the debates.

Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and running mate Cheri Honkala were excluded from the CPD debates in 2012.

According to the lawsuit, the failure of the FEC, whose commissioners are members of the Democratic and Republican parties, to act on an administrative complaint against the CPD and a petition for rulemaking was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise contrary to law.

Plaintiffs have asked the Court to either direct the FEC to find that the CPD and certain of its directors have violated the law, or permit plaintiffs to bring a civil action directly against the CPD and those directors. The suit also asks the Court to direct the FEC to open a rulemaking proceeding to revise its rules governing presidential debates.

Level the Playing Field (LPF), the lead plaintiff, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit corporation not affiliated with any candidate or candidate committee. Its purpose is to promote reforms that allow for greater competition and choice in elections for federal office, particularly for the presidency and vice presidency. LPF is the successor to Americans Elect, which obtained signatures sufficient to qualify for ballot access in 41 states in connection with the 2012 presidential election.

The Libertarian National Committee, Inc., which controls and manages the affairs and resources of the United States Libertarian Party, is also a plaintiff.

“The CPD uses its control of the debates to exclude qualified candidates and promote its favorite corporate-money candidates. Their exclusionary tactics keep voters from hearing the voices of candidates who are offering ideas outside of the two- party duopoly,” said Dr. Stein. “Polls show that American people are disgusted with the Democrats and Republicans and demand a viable third party. The actions of the CPD make the debates less informative and perpetuate the status quo. Opening up the debates will be a powerful force to revive our embattled democracy.”

(See “Americans Continue to Say a Third Political Party Is Needed,” Gallup, Sept. 24, 2014, http://www.gallup.com/poll/177284/americans-continue-say-third-political-party-needed.aspx)

“Elections should be decided by informed voters, not by party insiders who manipulate debate rules to keep voters in the dark. Open and inclusive debates will revitalize American democracy. In 2016 we have a chance to get it right,” said Karen Young, co-chair of the Green Party.

See also:

Green Party, 2012 Green presidential nominees are among the plaintiffs in the “Our America Initiative” law suit against the Commission on Presidential Debates
Press release: Green Party of the United States, April 21, 2015

No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates
Book by George Farah, Seven Stories Press (2004)


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