Debates proceed despite absence of third party

by Anna Nguyen

Despite criticisms from some citizens and political groups, Tuesday night’s presidential debate between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush in Boston went on without any third-party candidates.
The bi-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates stuck to its original guidelines in deciding which candidates could participate in the debates, based on his or her viability.
The CPD requires a debating presidential candidate to acquire 15 percent support in five national polls tallied by major news and polling organizations by Sept. 26.
The polls, along with constitutional eligibility and ballot access, determined the participants for the three presidential debates.
The Constitution states a presidential candidate has to be at least 35 years old, a natural-born citizen of the United States and a resident for fourteen years.
Ballot access requires that the candidate has his or her name on enough state ballots to have a mathematical chance of securing an Electoral College majority in the general election.
Gore and Bush were the only candidates to meet these requirements.
Both Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader have criticized the CPD guidelines. The third-party candidates filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission earlier this year because they did not fulfill all requirements.
Green Party Assistant Press Secretary Stacy Malken said voters are only getting part of the story in a two-party debate situation.
“We are concerned the two parties are controlling the information reaching the public, which is undemocratic. We think that public pressure can change the system,” she said.
Ralph Nader was in Boston Tuesday where the first debate took place at the University of Massachusetts.
Although the CPD will not make changes this year, a spokesman said feedback from experts and the public will be taken under consideration for the criteria in 2004.
Both major candidates support the CPD’s stipulations. Mike Campbell, executive director of the Minnesota Bush campaign said the campaign endorses the commission’s policy.
Democratic Party Deputy National Spokeswoman Devona Dolliole said the requirements have already been made and the party plans to follow them.
“We don’t intend to second-guess their guidelines. The American people will have an opportunity to see the candidates in three 90-minute (debates) in a variety of formats with a free-flowing exchange,” Dolliole said.
Students at the University expressed the spectrum of opinions concerning the debates.
Political science sophomore Sopanha Te said the quality of the debates is lessened by leaving out some candidates.
“Candidates like Nader bring in a contrasting element to the debates,” she said.
David Simon, a global studies major, said he can understand the reason for applying the restriction.
“Limiting the number of participants,” Simon said, “does not create a slippery slope enabling anyone on the ballot time and opportunity to steal the political spotlight.”
The University of Minnesota Parliamentary Debate Society, of which Simon is president, sponsored an event Tuesday night at Willey Hall for interested political student organizations.
The students viewed the debate on television, then discussed the various presidential issues.