By Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka

Presidential nominees, clockwise from top left, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. (Joel Peissig / CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Commission on Presidential Debates requires that presidential candidates poll at 15 percent or higher to be included in debates — but uses polls that don’t offer the Green Party ticket as an option. Green presidential nominee Jill Stein and running mate Ajamu Baraka wrote the open letter below to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, urging them to participate in open debates that include the Green and Libertarian campaigns.

Dear Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton:

In the spirit of democracy, we are writing to ask that you support open debates in 2016 that include all of the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates who are on enough ballots to win at least 270 electoral college votes.

There will only be four campaigns on enough state ballots to win the election: your campaigns, the Libertarians, and our Green Party campaign. All candidates should be included in the series of Presidential debates, so that voters can be informed about all of their choices. We propose four open debates, three for the Presidential candidates and one for the Vice Presidential candidates.

The US electorate is changing rapidly and is no longer limited to Republicans and Democrats. The number of eligible voters who identify as Republican or Democratic has steadily dropped from approximately 80% in 1958 to 50% today. A majority of US voters do not identify with either of your parties.

Open debate is essential for confronting the urgent issues our nation faces. The US economy is not serving the people of the United States, most of whom are struggling to survive and cope with massive debt; never-ending wars are sapping the strength of our nation and creating chaos around the world; we are threatened by mass extinction, climate change, and toxic pollution; health care costs take up nearly 20% of our GDP yet tens of millions go without necessary care; and racially-biased policies like the war on drugs, mass incarceration and police abuse continue to plague our society. These are just some of the crises we face, and in order to find solutions, more voices are needed in the political dialogue.

The presidential debates are the most important events in our election process. They should provide voters with multiple opportunities to see all the candidates on the ballot across the country, representing the diversity of American political thought, discussing important issues in an unscripted manner so that the people can make informed decisions about the direction of our country.

It is public knowledge that the debates are now controlled by a corporation calling itself the Commission on Presidential Debates in order to sound like an official body, when actually it is controlled by your two parties. This corporation has not served the US voting public well. The debates are choreographed in a highly controlled way, depriving voters of the honest debate they deserve. There is no significant participation by the public, moderators are chosen by the candidates, questions are vetted, and unscripted back-and-forth between candidates is minimal. This controlled format prevents spontaneity and ensures that real issues and innovative solutions are kept out of the public dialogue. Open debates will strengthen our nation, no matter who is the next president.

As the de facto leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, you have the power to end this charade. You can stand with the people and be champions of open debates. We urge you to end the monopoly of the elitist corporation that prevents voters from hearing a full debate on the issues facing the nation. We urge you to demand four-way debates in 2016.

A foundational principle of our nation has been that a marketplace of ideas, where all views are discussed and the best ideas win out, is essential to our democracy. The country is crying out for real leadership. By standing with the majority of Americans who want open debates, you will show you are a friend of the transformation our democracy needs.

While only one of us will be elected to serve the nation, we will make great strides together in confronting our problems and defining new solutions if we come together in open debates.


Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka

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