Group Makes New Push for Independents in Presidential Debates

Politicos are seeking to change the rules, saying it could break the major parties' hold on presidential elections.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney after the debate at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A group of nearly 50 prominent people from across the political spectrum is pressing the Commission on Presidential Debates to make it easier for independents to get in on the action.

In what they say is effort to open up the process and shake up the major parties' “duopoly” on presidential elections, prominent Democrats, Republicans, and independents, including retired General Stanley McChrystal, former Senator Joe Lieberman, former Senator Bob Kerrey, and former Governor Christine Todd Whitman, signed a letter to the commission urging it to change the rules on who will be invited to debates.

Currently, the commission will only invite candidates who aren't Republicans or Democrats if they receive an average of more than 15 percent of support from voters in five pre-debate polls, according to the group. The group advocates adding a rule that would allow one third-party candidate to attend the debate if that person could show that he or she was registered in enough states to receive a majority of electoral votes.

“We believe that the competition under such a rule would be vigorous, enabling, and a legitimate third candidate would emerge,” the group said, adding that it would “open up the political process and fundamentally improve the way we pick our President and Vice President.”

A CPD debate has not featured an independent since Ross Perot appearance in the 1992 contest between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.

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