The Commission on Presidential Debates has suggested that they will give Gary Johnson or Jill Stein “an inch” if they get close enough to the required 15 percent polling threshold to be included in the presidential debates. However, at least one debate sponsor in Colorado is apparently not so lenient.
Lily Tang Williams is running for U.S. Senate in Colorado. However, she is being excluded from a televised Senate debate because her party’s registration missed the mark by 0.023% — barely a fraction of one percent.
Club 20,“a non-partisan coalition of individuals, businesses, corporations, local governments and Native American tribes from Colorado’s 22 western counties,” hosts several debates relevant to Western Colorado. On September 10, the group will host a debate between the two major party candidates in the U.S. Senate Race, incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Darryl Glenn.
According to The Libertarian Republic — whose name suggests an obvious political leaning — Club 20 responded to questions about Williams’ exclusion from the debate with the following email:
Thank you for your email. CLUB 20 bi-laws state that any 3rd party candidates must have at least 1% of their party represented as registered voters for the specific district that the candidate is running for. According to the Secretary of State’s office, there are currently 3,678,915 registered voters in the State through the end of August and 35,967 of those are registered as Libertarian voters. The Libertarian Party represents .977% of registered voters in Colorado which falls short of the 1% threshold needed to be included in our candidate debates. We understand that this may be frustrating, but we adhere strongly to these requirements to ensure our debates are truly representative of Western Colorado. I apologize for any inconvenience and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
The .977% number is not quite accurate. If you add total active and inactive voters (which it appears Club 20 does), Libertarians actually make up 0.9799%, which even by the most stringent of standards could be rounded to 0.98%. Libertarian party registration in Colorado looks much like it does in many states that allow party registration.
However, party registration isn’t an accurate reflection of support for a candidate; especially, when over 34% of the registered electorate in Colorado are independents. In 2014, for instance, Libertarian candidate Gaylon Kent garnered 2.59% of the total vote in a race of 6 candidates.
It is difficult to determine how much support Williams has without adequate polling that includes more than the major party candidates. However, with Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson polling as high as 16 percent in the state, it is likely that these voters would want to learn about similar candidates as well.
According to Ballotpedia, there are 5 candidates running in November for U.S. Senate in Colorado, including Green Party candidate Arn Menconi and Unity Party candidate Bill Hammons. This is the first time Democrat Michael Bennet is up for re-election after being appointed in 2009.