|This issue was originally printed on white paper.|
On March 31, U.S. District Court Judge William Browning, a Reagan appointee, struck down Arizona's independent candidate petition procedure. Campbell v Hull, 96-444-WDB. The state probably won't appeal.
The case had been filed in 1996 by Green Party activists, who had tried and failed to qualify Ralph Nader as an independent presidential candidate. The law, as amended in 1993, required independents to obtain the signatures of 3% of all the registered independents in the state, and turn them in by June 27. 7,813 signatures were required. The group only collected 4,257. They argued that it was almost impossible to find registered independents, since they comprised only 14% of the registered voters. No other group had ever managed to comply with the law either, for statewide office.
Judge Browning did not rule on the constitutionality of the early deadline, but he cited the deadline as one reason for invalidating the restriction on who can sign. The only states with an earlier petition deadline for independent presidential candidates are Maine, North Carolina and Texas.
No other state requires that independent candidate petitions only be signed by registered independents, so the decision has no direct relevance to any other state. However, the precedent may be useful in cases in which a state requires a high number of signatures for an individual to obtain a place on the primary ballot of a small party, and that state also requires that such signatures come only from the ranks of members of that small party (Maine is such a state).
It is too late for this year's session of the legislature to pass a new procedure. In the meantime, elections officials will accept a signature from any registered voter on an independent candidate's petition.
On April 7, West Virginia Governor Cecil Underwood signed SB 591, which doubles the number of signatures needed by minor party and independent candidates. The bill kept the old restriction which requires all petitioners to say, "If you sign my petition, you can't vote in the primary" (presidential petitions can be circulated after the May primary, but can be signed only by people who didn't vote in the primary).
Underwood signed the bill, even though many people asked him to veto it, including Congressman Ron Paul, former Congressman John B. Anderson, and Ralph Nader.
West Virginia now has the hardest petition procedures of any state, for president. No state requires more signatures (as a percentage of the number of registered voters) for president, except Wyoming and Oklahoma; no other state except Texas bans primary voters from signing; no other state requires all petitioners to get "petitioning credentials" before they can work; and no other state requires minor party presidential candidates to pay a large filing fee ($2,000) in addition to the petition.
The new law takes effect June 11. The Natural Law Party is trying to qualify before then, so as to use the old, lower number of signatures.
Some West Virginia legislators didn't understand the ballot access provisions of SB 591. Representative Rick Staton, chair of the House Judiciary Committee (the Committee which handled the bill), said in a recent e-mail that he voted to increase the number of signatures to compensate for the fact that the "primary screen-out" was being eliminated. When it was pointed out to him that the "primary screen-out" still exists, he said that may have been an oversight.
SB 754 passed the House on April 27, by a unanimous vote. It repeals mandatory petitioning for all minor party candidates, if the candidates are willing to pay filing fees. It does not lower the filing fees, nor does it address the discriminatory manner in which fees are distributed (the major parties get a rebate of over half of the filing fees paid by members of those parties, but the government keeps all the fees paid by members of other parties and by independent candidates).
For president, Florida has never required a filing fee. Minor parties which have registered with the state, and which hold a national presidential nominating convention, will be able to place their presidential nominees on the ballot with no fee and no petition. Independent presidential candidates will still need signatures equal to 1% of the number of registered voters (for 2000, this will require 82,203 signatures).
Governor Jeb Bush has 15 days to sign or veto the bill after it reaches him, but bills may take as long as a month to reach the governor.
For office other than president, the bill lets candidates unwilling to pay the filing fee submit a petition equal to 1% of the number of people who are registered as members of the largest party. For statewide office for 2000, this will be 36,918 signatures (this is 1% of the number of registered Democrats in the state). Any registered voter may sign.
The old requirements, that minor party and independent candidates submit petitions equal to 3% of the number of registered voters (for office other than president) and pay filing fees, were the most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation. The legislature revised them because the voters in November 1998 amended the State Constitution to require equal ballot access for all candidates.
1. Alabama: HB 269, by Rep. Bob McKee, which lowers the vote test for a party to remain on the ballot from 20%, to 10%, passed the House Constitution and Elections Committee last month and will receive a vote in the House next week. The bill also makes it impossible for minor parties to nominate individuals who lost a major party primary earlier that year.
2. Arizona: HB 2656, which repeals the requirement that initiative petition circulators be registered voters, is in Conference Committee.
3. California: SB 1220, by Senator Adam Schiff, which deletes the requirement that petition circulators be registered voters, passed the Senate Elections Committee on April 21.
California (2): SB 365, by Senator John Lewis, passed the Senate Elections Committee on April 21. It makes it more difficult for minor party candidates to obtain a place on a primary ballot. It requires two separate petitions, one signed by 40 voters, and another one in lieu of the filing fee, signed by 150 voters. In the past, a single petition has served both purposes. The County Clerks Association is the force behind the bill.
4. Colorado: SB 25, by Senator Peggy Reeves, moves the deadline for independent candidate petitions from mid-July to early July. It passed the legislature on April 23.
5. Hawaii: SB 631, which lowers the number of signatures to get a new party on the ballot from 1% of the number of registered voters, to one-tenth of 1%, and which also makes it easier for a party to remain on the ballot, has passed both Houses and is in conference committee.
6. Idaho: H 153, which repeals the requirement that initiative petitioners be registered voters, was signed into law on March 23.
7. Maine: LD 1492, by Rep. Bob Stanwood, which moves the petition deadline for independent presidential candidates from mid-May to August 8, passed the Joint State & Local Government Committee on April 12.
Maine (2): LD 639, by Senator Beverly Daggett, which provides that a party which meets the vote test then lasts for four years, rather than just two years, passed the Joint State & Local Govt. Committee on April 23.
Maine (3): LD 2134, by Senator Mark Lawrence, failed in committee on April 28. It would have made it possible for a party to remain on the ballot if it had registration equal to one-half of 1% of the population.
8. Missouri: SB 346, which repeals the requirement that petitioners must be registered voters, will be voted on in the House this week.
9. Nebraska: LB 729, which repeals the requirement that petitioners be registered voters, is expected to receive a vote in the Senate this week.
10. Nevada: AB 520, which moves the deadline for qualified minor parties to nominate candidates, passed the Assembly on April 13 and is in the Senate Govt. Affairs Committee.
11. North Carolina: Rep. Jim Gulley will soon re-introduce his bill to move the new party petition deadline from May to July; it also lets registered voters remain members of parties, even after they cease to be recognized.
12. Oregon: SB 806 passed the Senate April 16. It repeals the requirement that initiative petition circulators be registered voters.
13. Pennsylvania: Rep. Todd Platts will re-introduced his ballot access improvement bill (formerly HB 1918) in the middle of this month.
14. Tennessee: SB 1237, by Senator Joe Haynes, and HB 993, by Rep. Jere Hargrove, are identical bills which move the independent candidate petition deadline (for office other than president) from late May to early April. HB 993 passed the House State & Local Government Committee on April 21.
15. Texas: HB 386, as amended, expands the petitioning period for minor party petitions from 75 days to 180 days. The bill no longer lowers the number of signatures. The bill passed the House Elections Committee on April 28.
16. Vermont: H 230, which provides that only parties which polled 10% for Governor should nominate by primary, has made no headway, and the legislature adjourns in mid-May. Currently, parties which poll 5% for any statewide race are able to nominate by primary.
On March 30, 1999, the 3rd circuit (which covers Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) issued a magnificent ruling which condemns discrimination against minor parties. Reform Party of Allegheny County v Allegheny County Dept. of Elections, 96-3677. The case was heard by all thirteen judges of the Circuit.
The issue was whether Pennsylvania could permit dual nominations ("fusion") between the Democratic and Republican Parties, and yet make it illegal for minor parties to jointly nominate a candidate with a major party. A Reform Party candidate for School Board had also won the Democratic primary, and yet the state had refused to print his name on the ballot with the party labels "Reform, Democrat". Yet the state would have permitted someone who won both the Republican and Democratic primaries for that office to be listed with the party label, "Republican, Democrat".
The court said that as long as the state permits fusion for two major parties, that it must permit fusion between a major and a minor party. The decision was written by Judge Jane Roth, a Bush appointee, and was unanimous, except that Judge Morton Greenberg, a Reagan appointee, supported the principle only in case the candidate submitted his petition before the May primary, not afterwards.
Pennsylvania only permits fusion for local office, not for state or federal office, so the practical impact of the ruling is not great; but the principles set forth will provide an excellent precedent for other issues.
This was the first Reform Party victory in any U.S. Court of Appeals. The case had also been won back in 1996, but the state had requested a rehearing, since in 1997 the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld a general ban on fusion.
On April 16, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld a 1996 campaign finance law which severely cripples political parties. State of Alaska v Alaska Civil Liberties Union, S-8778. The vote was unanimous.
The law forbids a political party from contributing more than $10,000 per year to a candidate for State House, $15,000 to a candidate for State Senate, or $100,000 to a candidate for Governor. It also forbids anyone from contributing more than $5,000 to a political party. And it makes it illegal for a political party to solicit or accept a contribution from an individual who lives outside Alaska.
The law also makes it illegal for a "corporation, company, partnership, firm, association, organization" to make a contribution to a political party. The Court, while upholding this restriction, hinted that it might invalidate this law later, if the law is enforced against an entity which does not participate in business activities, has no shareholders, and is independent from the influence of business corporations.
Under the law, it is a crime for an attorney to do voluntary work on behalf of a political party.
The Alaska Supreme Court has already shown itself to be hostile to political parties; in 1995 it upheld the blanket primary, without even giving the Republican Party (which had challenged it) an opportunity to present evidence that a blanket primary harms political parties.
The ACLU plans to ask for U.S. Supreme Court review.
Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) introduced HR 906 on March 2. It would provide that felons could vote in federal elections unless they are in prison serving time for a felony conviction. The bill was triggered by a study last year by Human Rights Watch and the Sentencing Project, which showed that 13% of all African-American men cannot vote because of their criminal records.
On April 23, U.S. Magistrate David Cohen upheld state law which requires initiative petitioners to be registered voters, even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January 1999 (in a Colorado case) that such laws violate the First Amendment. Initiative & Referendum Institute v Secretary of State, cv98-104. The magistrate also said there must be a trial to determine whether the state can ban paying circulators per signature.
The magistrate said that the U.S. Supreme Court's Colorado decision doesn't apply to Maine, since Maine has a much higher proportion of people who are registered to vote, than Colorado does. He said that the law does not make it difficult for initiatives to qualify in Maine.
Magistrate Cohen's opinion fails to acknowledge that the U.S. Supreme Court (in its Buckley v American Constitutional Law Foundation decision) wasn't concerned about whether it is too difficult to get an initiative on the ballot. There is no federal constitutional right to an initiative, much less to have easy access to the ballot for them. The Supreme Court was concerned about the right of individuals to circulate a petition, a right which is specifically mentioned in the First Amendment.
Plaintiffs may not appeal, since it is possible that another set of plaintiffs, who are better situated to make the individual rights argument, will file a new lawsuit.
1. Arizona: on April 2, the 9th circuit ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not require states or local governments to have procedures for the initiative or referendum. Stone v City of Prescott, 97-17121. Arizona does have the initiative and referendum, but no referendum is permitted if the legislation carries an emergency clause. In this case, the city of Prescott passed an ordinance with an emergency clause. Plaintiffs tried to force the city to permit a referendum, arguing that the U.S. Constitution requires it.
2. California: on March 17, four political parties asked for a rehearing in California Democratic Party v Jones, 97-17440. On April 21, the 9th circuit asked the state to respond to the parties' argument.
3. Colorado: the Federal Election Commission is appealing Colorado Republican Federal Campaign v FEC, 89-V-1159. The April 3 B.A.N. erred when it said there would be no appeal.
4. District of Columbia: on March 31, U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson, a Clinton appointee, upheld D.C. law which provides that no party can run more than one candidate for City Council-at-Large, even though two seats are up. The system, called limited voting, is designed to keep one party from winning all the seats. The U.S. Justice Department intervened against the limited voting law, but to no avail. D.C. Democratic Committee v Board of Elections, cv-98-1779.
5. Guam: on April 19, the 9th circuit invalidated the gubernatorial election held in Guam last November. The federal law under which Guam is permitted to elect a governor specifies that the winner must receive a majority. The vote was Gutierrez, Dem., 24,250; Ada, Rep., 21,200; misc. write-ins, 1,294. Gutierrez received a majority of all votes cast for Governor (21,200 + 1,294 = 22,494). His problem was that there were also 1,313 voters who cast a ballot in the ballot box, but who voted for no one for Governor. The judges interpreted the law to mean that the winner must get votes from half the people who drop a ballot into the box, not just half the people who vote for Governor.
A petition for rehearing has been filed. Ada v Guam, 98-17306.
6. Illinois: A hearing was held April 30 in U.S. District Court in Krislov v Rednour, 96-C-674, the case over whether petitioners for a candidate must be registered voters. Also, James Tobin, Libertarian Party candidate for Governor last year (who was kept off the ballot) filed his own federal lawsuit on the same subject on April 28, Tobin for Governor v State Board of Elections, 99c-2713.
7. Maryland: on Jan. 26, a U.S. District Court invalidated a county ordinance which made it illegal for a lawn sign advocating that voters vote for a particular candidate, be displayed, except during the period from 45 days before an election, to 10 days after an election. Curry v Prince George's County, 33 F Supp 2d 447.
8. Massachusetts: the Libertarian Party is about to file a lawsuit in state court, against a law which makes it very difficult for candidates to get on the primary ballot of a party which has few registered voters.
9. Missouri: on Jan. 13, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry, a Clinton appointee, issued an injunction against a law which limits the amount of contributions a political party can make to its own candidates. Mo. Republican Party v Lamb, 31 F Supp 2d 1161.
10. Oklahoma: on October 27, 1998, the State Supreme Court upheld a law requiring a candidate whose name is similar to an incumbent's name, to file three weeks before the regular deadline. Freeman v Election Board of Oklahoma, 969 P 2d 982.
11. Rhode Island: on March 5, the First Circuit held a hearing in Cool Moose Party v Board of Elections, 98-1874. The state is trying to overturn a ruling by the U.S. District Court, which said that a qualified party can decide for itself whether to invite members of other parties to participate in its primaries.
Two large states are considering bills to make a drastic change in the date of the primary for office other than president. Illinois currently holds its primary for all office in March, but on March 25 the Senate passed SB 938, which would move it to September. Pennsylvania now holds its primary for all office in April or May, but SB 62 and HB 653 would move it to September.
If the Illinois change is made, the petition deadline for non-presidential independents will automatically move from December of the year before the election, to June of the election year.
Bills are pending in several state legislatures to change the dates or other aspects of presidential primaries. It is possible that 8 states will hold presidential primaries in February, and 23 in March, leaving only 13 states with presidential primaries in the period April-June. New Hampshire's date will be set by the Secretary of State.
1. Alabama: Five bills are pending to move the presidential primary from June, to the first Tuesday in March: SB 25, SB 138, SB 397, SB 406, and HB 335.
2. California: Governor Gray Davis refused to sign SB 100, so it was returned to the legislature, which amended it to please the Governor. The amended bill now provides for only a single presidential primary ballot for all parties. There is no longer any provision for a separate party primary to elect delegates.
The bill still requires elections officials to count the ballots according to the party affiliation of the voters. Therefore, it will be possible for everyone to know the results from the registered members of each party, as well as the statewide totals for all voters. The parties will be free to use whichever set of returns they wish, to determine who won.
3. Colorado: SB 1 passed the legislature on April 23. It moves the presidential primary from March 2 to March 10.
4. Florida: HB 819, which would have moved the presidential primary from March 14 to March 7, doesn't seem likely to pass the legislature.
5. Kansas: HB 2366, which cancels the April presidential primary, has made no headway and probably won't pass.
6. Louisiana: HB 453, which moves the presidential primary to the first Saturday in February, has not yet made any headway.
7. Michigan: SB 51, which moves the presidential primary to the 4th Tuesday in February, is still in the House Local Government Committee.
8. Minnesota: SF 2223, which cancels the presidential primary, is in Conference Committee.
9. Montana: HB 490, which would have moved the presidential primary from June to March 10, passed the Senate but lost in the House on April 21 by one vote. The bill's sponsor may reintroduce it in June in the special session.
10. Nebraska: LB 695, which would have canceled the presidential primary, is unlikely to pass.
11. Nevada: AB 505, which would have established a presidential primary on March 10, failed in the Assembly Elections Committee on April 7. However, the sponsor may re-introduce the bill as a separate emergency measure.
12. North Dakota: SB 2121, which abolishes the presidential primary, was signed into law on March 18. Under the old law, the primary was held in February.
13. Ohio: HB 157 had been introduced to move the presidential primary from mid-March to May. However, it was amended to move the primary to March 7, and in that form passed the House on April 21.
14. Pennsylvania: HB 653 and SB 62 move the presidential primary from April to March 21.
15. South Dakota: the 1997 session of the legislature moved the primary from February back to June.
16. Utah: HB 91 was signed into law on March 10. It moves the presidential primary to March 10.
17. Virginia: SB 1287 was signed into law on April 7. It moves the presidential primary from March to February 29.
18. Washington: the date of the presidential primary is not fixed in the law; instead the law lets a committee set the date. On April 19 the committee declared that the presidential primary will be on February 29, 2000.
19. West Virginia: SB 25, which would have moved the primary from May to April, passed the Senate but failed in the House.
|FULL PARTY||CAND.||LIB'T||REFORM||NAT LAW||TAXPAYR||GREEN|
|Alaska||(reg) 6,606||#2,410||already on||already on||0||0||already on||June 1|
|Arizona||13,565||*unsettled||already on||0||*2,000||0||0||May 20|
|California||(reg) 86,177||149,692||already on||already on||already on||already on||already on||Oct 4, '99|
|Colorado||(reg) 1,000||#pay fee||already on||*already on||already on||10||already on||July 11|
|Connecticut||no procedure||#7,500||0||already on||0||0||already on||Aug 11|
|Delaware||es. (reg.) 235||es. 4,700||already on||already on||already on||already on||14||Aug 19|
|D.C.||no procedure||es. #3,500||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||Aug 15|
|Georgia||39,094||#39,094||already on||0||0||0||0||Jul 11|
|Hawaii||6,015||#3,703||0||0||0||0||already on||Apr 26|
|Idaho||9,835||4,918||already on||already on||already on||already on||0||Aug 31|
|Illinois||no procedure||#25,000||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||Aug 6|
|Indiana||no procedure||#30,717||already on||0||0||0||0||Jul 15|
|Iowa||no procedure||#1,500||0||0||0||0||0||Aug 17|
|Kansas||14,854||5,000||already on||already on||0||already on||0||June 1|
|Kentucky||no procedure||#5,000||already on||already on||0||0||0||Aug 30|
|Louisiana||est. (reg) 135,000||#pay fee||691||already on||14||40||89||July 1|
|Maine||21,051||#4,000||0||0||0||0||already on||Dec 16, '99|
|Maryland||10,000||es. 26,000||*already on||*1,500||0||0||0||Aug 7|
|Massachusetts||est. (reg) 37,500||#10,000||already on||2,289||59||0||311||Feb 15|
|Michigan||30,272||30,272||already on||already on||already on||*1,200||0||July 19|
|Minnesota||104,550||#2,000||0||already on||0||already on||0||June 1|
|Mississippi||just be org.||#1,000||already on||already on||already on||already on||0||Jan. 14|
|Missouri||10,000||10,000||already on||already on||0||already on||0||July 31|
|Montana||*5,000||*#5,000||already on||already on||already on||0||0||Mar 14|
|Nebraska||5,453||2,500||already on||200||0||0||0||Aug 1|
|Nevada||4,099||4,099||already on||0||already on||already on||0||July 2|
|New Hampshire||9,569||#3,000||*100||*400||0||0||0||Aug 7|
|New Jersey||no procedure||#800||0||0||0||0||0||July 30|
|New Mexico||2,494||14,964||already on||already on||0||0||already on||Apr 4|
|New York||no procedure||#15,000||can't start||already on||can't start||can't start||already on||Aug 21|
|North Carolina||51,324||es. 90,000||already on||*1,000||0||0||0||May 18|
|North Dakota||7,000||1,000||0||already on||0||0||0||*Apr 4|
|Oregon||16,663||13,755||already on||*200||0||0||already on||Aug 28|
|Pennsylvania||no procedure||es. #25,000||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||Aug 1|
|Rhode Island||15,323||#1,000||can't start||already on||can't start||can't start||can't start||Aug 1|
|South Carolina||10,000||10,000||already on||already on||already on||already on||0||May 7|
|South Dakota||6,505||#2,602||*300||0||0||0||0||Apr 4|
|Texas||37,381||56,117||already on||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||May 28|
|Utah||2,000||#300||already on||0||*400||0||0||Feb 15|
|Vermont||just be org.||#1,000||already on||0||0||0||0||Jan 1|
|Virginia||no procedure||#10,000||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||Aug 24|
|Washington||no procedure||#200||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||Jul 1|
|West Virginia||no procedure||*#12,730||already on||0||*2,000||0||0||Aug 1|
|Wisconsin||10,000||#2,000||already on||can't start||can't start||already on||already on||June 1|
|Wyoming||3,485||3,485||already on||*0||*0||*0||*0||June 1|
|TOTAL STATES ON||*28||*19||9||10||10|
"Deadline" refers to the procedure with the earliest deadline. The only other nationally-organized party which is on the ballot is the New Party, which is on in N.Y. * -- An asterisk means that the entry has changed since the last issue. # means that the candidate procedure lets the candidate choose a party label.
On April 6, Missouri held a special election in the State House, 43rd district (Kansas City). Only two candidates ran, an independent and the Democratic nominee. The independent, Terry Riley, won, polling 2,252 votes to the Democrat's 1,791.
Riley is personally a Democrat, and he has associated himself with the Democratic caucus. He ran as an independent because he was unable to win the Democratic nomination. In Missouri special elections, party nominees are chosen by party committee.
On March 16, Kentucky held a special election in the 91st House district: Republican 2,127 (39.1%), Democratic 1,916 (35.2%), independent 1,400 (25.7%). In 1998 there had been only one candidate for the seat, a Democrat.
The Democratic and Republican Parties have announced the exact dates of their national conventions: Republican -- July 31-August 3, 2000; Democratic -- August 14-17.
The Association of State Green Parties has been working on rules for a Green Party national presidential nominating convention. A tentative proposal, released April 17, provides that each state receive one delegate; that each represented congressional district receive one delegate; that each state affiliated with ASGP receive an additional delegate; and that any Green Party public office-holder who polled at least 5,000 votes be a super-delegate.
Election Data Services has computed the proportion of voters who still vote on mechanical ("lever") voting machines, which were first used in 1892. In 1998, only 18.6% of voters lived in places which use these machines, down from 27.0% in 1994. The decline of lever machines is good news for minor parties, because their candidates are frequently squeezed into odd corners of the face of the machine, where voters don't even notice their names.
On May 13, Thursday, from 9:30 am to 3 pm, there will be a conference in Washington, D.C., titled "The Two-Party System & Its Discontents", at Mooers-Morella Courtroom, American University, College of Law, 4801 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Speakers include Ralph Nader, Russell Verney (chair of the Reform Party), Patricia Ireland (President, National Organization for Women), Christopher Hitchens (author of a forthcoming book on the lesser-of-two-evils), Professor Ron Walters, Paul Weyrich (head of the Free Congress Foundation), Hendrik Hertzberg (editor of New Yorker Magazine), writer Micah Sifry, Rob Richie (Director of the Center for Voting & Democracy), and law professors Jamin Raskin and Richard Parker Registration is $15. For more information, call (202)-274-4268.
Most leading Democratic and Republican candidates for president have a web site, but only Vice-President Al Gore's site gives anyone a chance to ask his campaign a question about any subject. B.A.N. suggests that readers ask him, if he becomes the Democratic nominee, would he consider participating in at least one general election presidential debate at which the leading four or five presidential candidates (rather than just the Democratic and Republican nominees) are invited?
The address for Gore's site is http://www.algore2000.com/ -- then go to the "Town Hall" area. If enough people ask this question, his campaign may respond.
The only instance in U.S. history at which an independent or minor party presidential candidate was permitted to debate both major party nominees, was 1992, when Ross Perot participated with President George Bush and Bill Clinton. However, in a majority of states, some minor party nominees for Governor or U.S. Senator in recent years have debated their major party opponents on TV. There is no rational reason why such a policy should not extend to at least one of the general election presidential debates. The best way to make it happen, is to press all of the leading Democratic and Republican candidates for a commitment to participate in such a debate.