During Open Debate, Third Party Candidates Say It's Really the Major Parties Who Are The Spoilers

Editor's Note: Independent Voter News was a featured co-sponsor of the open presidential debate.

The Free and Equal Elections Foundation (FEEF) hosted its second independent open presidential debate of the year on October 8, an event slated as a rebuke to the presidential debate commission's debates, which have long lacked inclusion and substance.

“With the Commission on Presidential Debates reeling in from its poor stewardship of the debate process, today’s cross-partisan debate is an opportunity for the nation to advance a much more meaningful political discourse, one that represents our deep yearnings for a more perfect union,” said FEEF Co-Founder Christina Tobin during her opening introduction.

Participants in the debate included:

  • Howie Hawkins of the Green Party
  • Brian Carroll of the American Solidarity Party; 
  • independent Brock Pierce; 
  • Don Blankenship of the Constitution Party; and
  • Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism & Liberation

Topics during the debate ran the gamut of political issues, from war to government surveillance to education, and more. Prominently featured, though, was the need for broad, systemic reform not only to the debate process but how we elect our public officials and how to increase competition in the election process.

“I think we are ready for some changes that hopefully make things more fair,” said independent Brock Pierce. 

On the subject of voting reform, the candidates were presented with two alternative voting methods -- approval voting and ranked choice voting. There was little objection to either reform. Approval voting allows voters to essentially vote for as many candidates as they want, while ranked choice voting allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

Some candidates, like Howie Hawkins and Brian Carroll, preferred ranked choice voting, while others, like Pierce, said either is a step in the right direction if states are willing to adopt them.

"I fell in love with ranked choice voting about 30 years ago when I was on the vote counting committee for a small organization," said Carrol. "I was amazed by how well it worked."

For most of the candidates, though, the conversation quickly turned to the need for greater ballot access, as all of these candidates lamented the struggles they and other minor parties and independent candidates like them have just getting their name on the ballot.

“We’re off the charts in this country,” said Hawkins. “You want to run for Congress? In most states, it takes thousands or tens of thousands of signatures. You want to run as an independent for the House of Commons in England? It’s ten signatures. For the parliament in New Zealand, it’s two signatures. 

“In this country, it is thousands or tens of thousands of signatures, and people wonder why we only got two parties on the ballot. It's because the two parties have set up the laws so we can’t even get on the ballot.”

Hawkins said the Democratic Party accuses the Green Party of spoiling the presidential election form them, when in reality it is the major parties that are spoiling the elections -- a sentiment shared by other debate participants, not just on the subject of ballot access, but equal media access, debate access, and creating an avenue for more competitive elections.

“We’ve been tricked or fooled into thinking we only have two choices, and as long as we continue to make fear-based votes, instead of voting our conscience and doing what we believe to be the right thing, we will forever be trapped in this illusion. It’s time to break free,” said Pierce.

Did you miss debate? Check out all the topics discussed in an open and civil manner above.