5% versus 15%

In my research on how 3rd party candidates get shut out of the political process, I came across a startling result.

If a Presidential candidate (eg Michael Badnarik in 2004) has >5% of a major popular poll going into the debates then they are eligible, by law, to participate in the debate.

But the League of Women Voters, the group that organizes and orchestrates the Presidential debates, uses 15% as the minimum % needed in popular polls to extend invitations to debate.

5% by law, 15% by this organization, which is not a part of the federal government mind you.

This is disconcerting for the following reason :

Prior to the election of Jesse Ventura as governor of Minnesota, he had 8% support in the polls. He goes on to win the governorship, and is re-elected by a very wide margin. The people of Minnesota thought Ventura did a good job in his first term, and they voted across party lines to re-elect him, as he ran as an independent. But if he were running for Pres and not Gov, he would have been shut out of the political process, not legally, but by the League of Women Voters.

What a sham !

The 15% mark is completely artificial, and in place to deny a serious challenge by 3rd party contenders. Let them all debate I say. Let the people vote for the candidate they think will do the best, according to their system of beliefs. It is nonsense to have to vote for a jackass or a lunatic, but such is our usual choice with our failed duopoly.


8 Responses to “5% versus 15%”

  1. Logipundit Says:

    Actually, Scottie, you have it backwards. According to Wikipedia:


    “In 1988, the LWV withdrew from debate sponsorship, in protest of the major party candidates attempting to dictate nearly every aspect of how the debates were to be conducted, which ultimately resulted in the Democratic and Republican parties forming the Commission on Presidential Debates which gave the parties greater control over the debate environment.”

    Which actually illustrates your point even more. If the Democratic and Republican parties are calling the shots, then it’s no wonder there’s an arbitrary rule exluding others.

    Still haven’t found the 15% rule, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Here’s the Commission’s site:


  2. Logipundit Says:

    Actually, look at the press release LWV put out when they backed out of the debates in 1988:

    “The League of Women Voters is withdrawing sponsorship of the presidential debates … because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates’ organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”

  3. JohnnyB Says:

    The benchmark should be how many signatures in each state. If a candidate can round up a few thousand valid signatures in each state, they should get a seat at the debate. That way there is some benchmark not contingent upon pollsters and the coastal elites.

  4. JohnnyB Says:

    I read “I ain’t got time to bleed” by Jesse Ventura and it was a enlightening book on the stranglehold the two party system has on American politics. In essence I agree about the arbitrary nature of the debates.

  5. Mamacita Says:

    Wow, this is definitely at the root of the problem; no spectrum of thinking allowed on the national level, at least…could this be why all the meaningful actions seem to be at the state/municipal level eg. mayors campaign to restrict handguns; health care reform (Oregon)..

  6. scottie Says:

    ahhhh, thanks for the correction!
    i didnt know they stopped sponsoring it

    well that certainly explains why the number jumped

    the 15% number i read quite recently

    ross perot could debate because he was higher in the polls, michael badnarik got arrested for trying to gain access to the last debate in 04 even though he was on every states ballot!

  7. Logipundit Says:

    Mamacita, meaningful action SHOULD be done at the local level…the more local the better. A Federal Government works much better if states are pushing things than if the Fed is pushing things on the States. It’s the nature of a Republic, and that part I like.

    However, that grants no excuse for Federal positions, actions, elections, etc., to be closed to alternative parties.

    I don’t know about the 15% rule, but it was probably put into place after Ross Perot got over 5% and scared the bejeezus out of the status quo.

    Definitely a root of the problem, and I agree with Johnny on the signatures. Polls are almost always gonna skew towards the two major parties.

    Some of these parties are going to have to form coalitions. Libertarian, Constitutional, and Patriot should find some common ground and pool their resources. The answer to that is one issue: religion.

    The Green party is very well organized and could make some inroads on its own given the current “climate change” talk. They and the Reform party could make inroads if they would run someone other than Ralph Nader. (Why in the world they won’t get the message that someone that ugly will NEVER get more than 5% of the vote, much less be president, as long as there are TV’s I’ll never guess.)

    The real challenge is that almost every other county in the world has TONS of parties that form HUGE “coalitions” in order to be competitive against dominant parties. That’s unfortunately not the American way…too many chiefs and not enough Indians results in splits, not coalitions.

    Another challenge is that there are only a few “types” of political parties in the world, some of which just wouldn’t work in the U.S. (ethnic parties, elite parties, etc.). It’s no accident that in a hodge-podge, melting pot, relatively young country such as the U.S. that there are challenges for narrowly focused parties gaining significant political access on the Federal level.

    So…who wants to start another party?

  8. Logipundit Says:

    Oh and a good analogy to this is American Protestantism:

    Does anyone know how many different Baptist conventions there are? Just Baptist…

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