Citing survey data showing former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has in fact achieved the narrow criteria required for inclusion in the Monday debate, earning more than 40 percent of the vote in “head-to-head” polls against President Barack Obama, the Libertarian Party nominee’s campaign today filed a complaint in Federal Court in the District of Columbia maintaining that Johnson has, in fact, met the Commission on Presidential Debates’ criteria for inclusion. The complaint asks the Court to compel the CPD to include Johnson.
“The CPD requirements say Johnson ‘must register support of at least 15 percent of the vote in five recent polls,'” Johnson campaign counsel Alicia Dearn said in a statement. “Nowhere does it say those polls must include three candidates. Indeed, the polls used by the CPD to exclude Johnson test only two candidates even though Gov. Johnson is on the ballot in 48 states. We argue that Gov. Johnson has met the specific and narrow criteria laid out by the CPD.
“Included in the two-party ‘deal’ struck by the Republicans and Democrats are the criteria by which candidates are invited to participate. As a two-term governor who is on more than enough states’ ballots to be elected in the Electoral College, the decision to exclude Gov. Johnson can only be based upon the CPD’s self-determined polling criterion — using polls that are ‘head-to-head’ surveys between Romney and Obama. Who decided that? The CPD rules do not specify the number of candidates to be tested in the poll. Using their own methodology, polls that ask voters’ preferences between the President and Gov. Johnson are equally valid, and as we have demonstrated, will show more than enough support for Gov. Johnson to meet the CPD’s arbitrary 15 percent requirement. The same would clearly be the result when Gov. Johnson is surveyed against only Gov. Romney. Nowhere does it say that only the Republican and the Democrat should be pitted against one another,” Dearn said.
“It must be repeated that the official-sounding Commission on Presidential Debates is not official at all. It is a private organization created by the Republican and Democratic Parties for the clear and admitted purpose of controlling the presidential debate process. Everything from the schedule to the participants to the water glasses on stage are determined by way of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties, to the exclusion of everyone else.
Two debates have already happened, and have excluded Gov. Johnson. We can’t change that — no matter how unfair. However, the CPD has one last opportunity to do the right thing for Monday night’s debate, which we have asked them to do via a letter transmitted Thursday. However, we are not holding our breath for an answer, and have asked the Federal Court to help them do the right thing. Also, we make it clear in our complaint that this issue does not end Monday night, and that it is not just about Gov. Johnson. We are also asking for a permanent injunction to require that the CPD’s criteria be changed for future elections to correct the organization’s fundamental unfairness.
“The American people need to understand that the presidential debates are televised productions of the Republican and Democratic Parties. Nothing more. And those productions are designed to exclude alternative voices and ignore the simple fact that one-third of the electorate does not belong to their exclusive clubs.”
A copy of the Johnson campaign’s complaint and letter to the CPD are available here.