While third-party candidates are often restricted from participating in debates, many Libertarian supporters argue their party is being put at a disadvantage.
Republican incumbent Richard Burr and Democratic challenger Elaine Marshall will be participating in election debates on Oct. 11 and 21 while Libertarian candidate Michael Beitler will not.
Oct. 11 and Oct. 21 — Debates sponsored by North Carolina Association of Broadcasters(Republican and Democratic candidates)
Oct. 13 — Debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters (Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian candidates)
Tim Morrissey, president of the N.C. Association of Broadcasters and the Educational Foundation, said third-party candidates must be supported by at least 10 percent in public polls by Sept. 1 in order to be included in the debates.
It is common for the Libertarian candidates not to meet this standard — which is not intended to prevent any particular party from participating, Morrissey said.
Many of Beitler’s supporters feel this exclusion is an unfair hindrance to the democratic process.
“This exclusion reflects a larger pattern of exclusion by the state of North Carolina,” said Alex Lopez, vice president of the UNC College Libertarians.
In order to be placed on the ballot, third party candidates must obtain 100,000 signatures, Lopez said.
Supporters spent significant energy and resources obtaining these signatures and were frustrated to find their candidate would not be allowed to participate in these debates, he said.
“If they really wanted the best candidates, they would let all ideas come to the table,” Lopez said.
Lopez said there has been a recent interest in the Libertarian movement at UNC.
“We’re confronted with a million choices for the rest of our lives,” Lopez said. “Why should our senate choices be limited to two?”
Leroy Towns, political journalism professor at UNC, said debates are very important in the political process.
“Debates give people a chance to look at candidates close up and see how they act under pressure situations,” Towns said.
Third-party candidates can soak up energy and attention from the main parties, he said.
Although Beitler was not invited to the Oct. 11 and 21 debates, he will be participating in a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters on Oct. 13.
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