Green party may try to 'escort' Jill Stein into the presidential debates

The Guardian, by Lauren Gambino, September 21, 2016

A Stein supporter is calling for volunteers to take part in protest and civil disobedience in Hofstra, New York, where the first debate is set for Monday.

The Green Party may try to "escort" candidate Jill Stein into the presidential debates in an attempt to get her onstage, a campaign adviser announced on Wednesday.

Calling for volunteers to take part in protest and civil disobedience in Hofstra, New York, where the first debate is due to take place on Monday, Kevin Zeese wrote on Stein's website: "We may decide to have supporters attempt to escort our candidates [Stein and vice-presidential nominee Ajamu Baraka] into the debates. This situation may lead to arrest – it is possible but not definite. There will be actions you can take with us at Hofstra that do not risk arrest."

He added: "Some people are signing up to risk arrest, others are coming for a no-arrest protest. Let us know if you want to participate in civil disobedience."

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Friday that the third-party candidates Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson had failed to qualify for the first debate.

To earn a spot on the debate stage, the commission requires each candidate meet a 15% support threshold, determined by an average of five pre-selected national polls, and qualify for the ballot in enough states that it would be mathematically possible to receive the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

The commission calculated that Stein had 3.2% support in an average of the five selected polls. Johnson also failed to make the cut, with a polling average of 8.4%.

The last third-party candidate to be admitted to the televised presidential debates was the independent presidential hopeful Ross Perot in 1992. Stein and Johnson could still qualify for the second or third presidential debates in October if they are able to increase their support in the coming weeks.

Stein's campaign is organizing a protest outside Hofstra University, where the debate between the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, will take place on 26 September. The invitation on Stein's website also offers participants the opportunity to enroll in a one-day, non-violent civil resistance training ahead of Monday's protest.

The debate over the debate escalated in recent weeks as it became clear that the two alternative candidates would likely not have a podium on the debate stage, despite the record-low favorability ratings of the major party nominees.

In an op-ed for the Guardian earlier this month, Stein called it "undemocratic" to exclude her and Johnson from the debates.

"We can't have democracy without a free exchange of ideas and an informed public. The presidential debates, watched by roughly 70 million people, are the most important way for voters to get information," Stein wrote.

This weekend, Johnson expressed disappointment with the decision, but maintained a positive outlook.

"The clock still ticks," Johnson told CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday. "Getting to 15% and being in the second debate and third debate, my partner, fiancee, best friend, Kate, she said, Gary, this is just your luck, you don't have to hassle with the first debate and you're still going to get elected president."