Letter: Debates need to be fair for all candidates

Now that the conventions are over, it's time for the presidential candidates to debate the serious issues facing our country.

Unfortunately, the televised debates are being manipulated by a bipartisan, corporate-funded group that is intent upon shielding legitimate third-party candidates - and the issues they represent - from the eyes of the American public.

The Commission on Public Debates has this year decided that candidates must reach 15 percent in the polls to be included in the debates. This number has no basis in history or federal regulation, or any logic whatsoever, except that it is sufficiently high to exclude

third-party candidates who have yet to enjoy the full-scale national media coverage accorded to the two-party duopoly. Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura was polling at just 8 percent before his participation in televised debates, and then went on to win the election.

The outrageous 15-percent requirement roadblocks the progress of third parties, and silences discussion about the issues they represent - issues such as real campaign finance reform and fair trade policies that include environmental and labor standards.

We call on the CPD to create truly "objective criteria" for debate inclusion, as federal law requires them to do. We support the criteria suggested by Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. in a resolution to Congress: that candidates should be included if they reach 5 percent in the polls - a number that mirrors federal regulations for campaign funding - or receive more than 50 percent support in polls asking who should be in the debates.

Polls show that 64 percent of Americans want to see Ralph Nader in the debates. Voters must now demand access to the information they need in order to make an informed decision in this election. Call the Commission on Presidential Debates at 202-872-1020 and demand that they establish a fair inclusion criteria and let Ralph debate. To find out more about what you can do, visit votenader.org.

MICHELE HAPPE

Minden

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