The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Third Party Choices at the Polls

3 min read


Other than McCain or Obama, there are four other candidates to choose from in this year’s presidential election.

Samantha Lee, a former Colbert/Stewart ’08 supporter said, “I didn’t even know there were other candidates, but I wish I did, so I didn’t feel like my only options were Obama and McCain.”

Lee is not the only student unaware of her alternative choices this year. When asked, several students say they were unaware that third party candidates even existed.

For over a year now, Americans have watched the Democratic and Republican candidates debate and campaign.

However, some say they still feel like they must choose between a rock and hard place.

The Independent, Libertarian, Green, and Independent Green parties are all putting up candidates for voters’ consideration. None of these candidates participated in the official Presidential debates though, and many voters still have no idea who they are.

Third party candidates have not had the mass media exposure that both Obama and McCain have this year, but they will nevertheless be on the ballot and voters deserve to know who they are and what they stand for.

One of the most familiar third party candidates is Independent Party nominee Ralph Nader. It is contested that the main premise of the Independent Party is that the people of America deserve a third party to debate and challenge the Democrats and Republicans during elections.

Loralynn Krobetzky, communications director of the Nader headquarters in Washington D.C., explained how the current criteria set forth by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has hindered third party candidates from joining the debate.

The regulations imposed by the CPD state that certain criteria must be met in order for a presidential hopeful to participate.

A hindrance for independent candidates is that they must have at least an average of 15 percent of the public’s support according to a series of five pre-designated election polls.

Krobetzky commented on how this influences third party candidates.

“The current regulations mandated by the CPD are set up to make it nearly impossible for third party candidates to participate,” Krobetzky said.

The last time a third party candidate was allowed into one of the debates was in 1992, when Independent Party candidate Ross Perot joined the then current President, George Bush, and Gov. Bill Clinton.

At the time of the 1992 campaign, candidates only needed to receive 5 percent of the public’s support according to CPD polling. By 1996 however, the number had been raised to 15 percent, which consequently excluded Ross Perot from debating a second time.

According to the CPD, the purpose of the criteria is “to identify those candidates who have achieved a level of electoral support such that they realistically are considered to be among the principal rivals for the Presidency.”

One official from College Republicans campaigning at the Nest on Friday said that “third party candidates are not a viable option for voters,” before declining to speak further for publication.

Ben Miller, vice-chair of College Republicans, was then delegated to speak on behalf of the club.

Miller said that he thought current regulations on the debates were “just fine.”

“If you can’t create enough momentum on your own to get yourself into the debates, then you shouldn’t be allowed to participate,” Miller said.

Supporters of third party candidates argue that not allowing their candidates to participate in the presidential debates is a disservice to the American voters, and a clear sign that the CPD is bi-partisan.

From 1976 to 1987, the debates were sponsored by a non-partisan organization called the League of Women Voters. However, in 1988, the LWV pulled out of sponsoring the debates due to overwhelming pressure from the Democratic and Republican Party.

Nader’s camp currently encourages supporters to help “Open the Debates,” which asks voters to contact officials to demand that third party candidates be included in national coverage.

“We would love for our candidate to win the election, but our party campaigns to change the election. We want to shift the debates, and give the power back to the people,” Krobetzky said.

Follow me on Twitter