Today more than ever, Americans want a greater choice when casting their ballot for political candidates whether for local or national elections. Our country’s two-party system is no longer functioning as intended, causing Congress to often stand still and remain silent. Because of this, more and more potential voters are choosing to separate themselves from political parties and register as Independents (non-partisans). This is now evidenced by 311,388 non-partisans registered to vote in the State of Nevada as of July 2018 (Nevada Secretary of State). This amounts to nearly one third of all registered voters in the State of Nevada that have chosen to disassociate themselves from any political party and deserve the right to hear an alternative voice in the upcoming debate.
Even though these voters represent such a large segment of the population, those candidates who chose to run as Independents face extensive hurdles when it comes to recognition which is so often silenced by party influence.
Public debates are the most effective means for a candidate’s voice to be heard and discriminating against a candidate unfairly influences our elective system. An hour of free statewide air time can represent millions of dollars to a political candidate and a candidate’s viability should not be measured solely on the amount of donations raised.
Broadcasters often depend on major political candidates to buy air-time during election season and can easily have a conflict of interest in their objectivity choosing the candidates who get to participate in their debate. One hour of free statewide airtime to any candidate would normally cost millions of dollars of what would be in-kind donations if stations were not exempt by law. However, this exemption is specifically conditioned on the use of “objectivity” criteria in their candidate selection process, pursuant to FEC § 11 CFR 110.13.
Plaintiff is one such Independent candidate who seeks admission to that certain U.S. Senate debate that is to be televised state-wide but for all intents and purposes, will be barred from participating in the debate for failure to meet defendant’s “objective” criteria of $50,000.00 in received donations. Plaintiff asserts that defendant $50,000.00 donation threshold criterion is arbitrary and capriciousand has no actual bearing on plaintiff’s viability as a candidate. Particularly where plaintiff meets all other “objective” criteria and the Republican and Democratic candidates are deficient in the same respect (discussed below). For these reasons, a preliminary (emergency) injunction and permanent injunction barring defendants from airing the said debate, or other debates in similar fashion, unless and until plaintiff is permitted to participate in the debate.