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Gary Johnson Dismisses Lawsuit Against Commission on Presidential Debates

Published on December 26, 2012, by in General.

On December 14, Gary Johnson dismissed his lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates. The case, which had been filed on October 18, 2012, just prior to the last major party presidential debate (held October 22), had alleged that Johnson satisfied the criteria for inclusion. The rules say that three polls must show that the candidate is at 15% or higher. Johnson submitted three polls, in which respondents were only asked if they preferred President Obama or Gary Johnson, and in all three polls, Johnson scored far higher than 15%.

Because the case had been filed so late, relative to the debate itself, no ruling was ever made in this case. Now that the election is over, Johnson and his attorneys saw no further need for the lawsuit.

It will be interesting to see if the Commission on Presidential Debates revises its rules before the 2016 election, to set forth rules on how many presidential candidates, and which candidates, must be included in the various polls that determine eligibility. It is conceivable that new rules would at least encourage pollsters to be more attentive to including all presidential candidates who are on the ballot in states containing enough electoral votes to be elected. Many leading polls do not bother to include anyone except the two major party presidential candidates.

16 Responses

  1. Slam In A Y-Trap

    I don’t understand. I thought the whole point of filing this lawsuit so late was so that it could be pursued afterwards in preparation for 2016?

  2. Andy

    It seems to me that it would have been better to keep this law suit going, because now the same problem is going to exist for the 2016 election.

    I don’t expect the Commission on Presidential debates to make any positive changes unless they are forced to do so.

  3. Joshua

    Since the Commission typically represents the interests of supporters of major-party candidates rather than third-party or independent candidates, I wouldn’t expect the rules to change in a way that would make it easier for non-major-party candidates to get into the debates.

    In fact, the Commission would be more likely to close Gary Johnson’s attempted loophole. I can imagine them adding a rule that says “Any poll which omits a candidate whose political party received at least 30% of the popular vote in the prior presidential election will not be taken into consideration.”

  4. Slam In A Y-Trap

    Lawsuits are a tool to help force eventual change. If we get a string of rule changes in response to lawsuits that will be evidence to prove that they are partisan in future lawsuits, IRS complaints against their 501c3 tax exempt status, etc.

    We need a multi-pronged strategy to fight them.

  5. DSZ

    I’m pretty sure the lawsuit was right before the last presidential debate, not the first.

  6. Richard Winger

    #5, thanks, you’re right. I fixed the post.

  7. We didn’t dismiss it. We consolidated it with the California suit for procedural reasons, as part of a long term strategy. There will be an amended complaint filed shortly in the Central District of Calfornia, which I will happily share with Ballot Access News after it is on file with the court.

  8. Brad M

    #7 Excellent news.

  9. Demo Rep

    With the ZILLIONS of TV attack ads in the marginal gerrymander E.C. States — who paid ANY attention to the rigged rehearsed so called debates with O and R ???

    How many Voters went deaf due to such attack ads — or more likely instantly shut them off ???

  10. Slam In A Y-Trap

    @7 That is indeed excellent news. I was going by the story above.

  11. Ian Summers

    It should be any candidate who is on the ballot in enough states to hit 270 theoretically, so for 2012 – Obama, Romney, Johnson, & Stein.

  12. Arthur C. Barker

    I would not hold my breath on the CPD making any voluntary changes. Various alternative tactics might be worth considering: (1) Questioning the legitimacy of their “nonpartisan” tax status; (2) Additional pressure on sponsors who are involved with a sham debate process; (3) Support for an honest alternative debate sponsor such as the Free & Equal Foundation or the League of Women Voters; and (4) Boycotting all televised CPD debates unless they adopt an inclusive criteria that maximizes voter information instead of helping to rig the system.

  13. Important to say this lawsuit has merely been consolidated and will proceed. Access to the 2016 debates crucial for Libertarian break thru !

  14. Demo Rep

    Any PRIVATE group can invite whom ever it wishes for a debate.

    I.E. abolish the CPD IF it gets ANY govt cash for its machinations.

    Candidate debates went OUT of vogue with the invention of radio and esp. TV — i.e. ATTACK ads.

    What State in 2012 had the most O and R TV attack ads — to perhaps stimulate the Ad/TV biz ???

  15. Joshua

    #12 Arthur: Remember that when the League of Women Voters sponsored debates from 1976 through 1984, they invited independent candidate John Anderson to participate in one debate in 1980. But Anderson only got the opportunity to debate against Ronald Reagan — Jimmy Carter refused to debate Anderson. The only debate Carter participated in that year was the one Anderson was not invited to.

    The task for those who want to get non-major parties into the presidential debates is to figure out how that can be done while still getting the major party candidates to participate.

  16. DSZ

    I think the only realistic solution we can hope for would be for Congress to pass a law directing the FEC to dictate new terms for presidential debates. There would have to be special circumstances for Congress to become more open to allowing third parties in presidential debates, but once the door is ajar, closing it would smack of realpolitik, so I think the change could last. Basically, I think you would have to have both houses controlled by the same party, and that party’s likely presidential nominee would have to look particularly weak vs. the opposing party’s likely nominee. Therefore letting a third party candidate gather more momentum likely hurts the frontrunner more than who’s in 2nd, and in the off chance that the minor party candidate wins at least it’s likely better than having the other major party candidate win. One possible scenario: The Democrats narrowly win the house in 2014, the primaries in early 2016 make it look like Joseph Biden will be the likely nominee, and a very popular Marco Rubio or Chris Christie seals the GOP nomination early on. Therefore it’s advantageous to allow (a) minor candidate(s) in the debates, and create a distraction from Biden’s endearing yet damaging gaffes.

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