Ever since it became clear that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would be the Democratic and Republican nominees for president, clamor has increased to allow other candidates into the fall debates. Clinton and Trump are the two least popular nominees in modern history, so people are thirsty for alternatives.
Recent polls have found huge majorities of voters want third party candidates to be included in the debates, regardless of who they are. But the current rules created last year, before the Clintrump circus was ordained, make that almost impossible.
Candidates have to be on the ballots of enough states to win an electoral college majority, but they also have to have an average of 15% in five national polls selected by the Commission on Presidential Debates. It’s this last requirement that will keep third parties out of the game, but it doesn’t have to be.
The five national polls selected by the Commission are among the highest in which Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson polls, but they are also the ones that do 4-person polling most often. That means some of his potential support gets split with Green nominee Jill Stein. If those polls only asked Clinton-Trump-Johnson and Clinton-Trump-Stein instead of Clinton-Trump-Johnson-Stein, both third party candidates would probably find more support and increase their chances of making the all-important 15% threshold.