Commission on Presidential Debates reveals how candidates qualify for debates

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Gary Johnson and Jill Stein (Photo: George Frey/Getty Images and Alex Wong/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — The Commission on Presidential Debates has revealed exactly how it will determine who gets to be on stage this fall.

In a normal election season, this announcement wouldn’t matter much.

But this year Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee, and Jill Stein, the Green Party contender, are both hoping to make the cut.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the only two definite participants, since they are polling well above the commission’s 15% threshold for invitations.

Johnson and Stein are below the threshold and are trying to change that between now and mid-September. That’s when the commission’s “selection criteria” will be applied.

On Monday, the commission announced the five polls that will be averaged together to determine who is receiving 15% support nationwide.

The polls are ABC-Washington Post; CBS-New York Times; CNN-Opinion Research Corporation; Fox News; and NBC-Wall Street Journal.

The polls were chosen with “the professional advice” of Frank Newport, editor in chief of Gallup, the commission said.

The commission announced the 15 percent threshold in October 2015. But now it is explaining the process in more detail. The criteria “will be applied in mid-September,” the commission said, not naming an exact date.

The first debate is scheduled for Sept. 26.

“If a candidate is invited to the first presidential debate, that person’s vice presidential running mate will be invited to the vice presidential debate,” the commission said. “The criteria will be reapplied between the first and second presidential debates and the second and third presidential debates.”

In other words, if Johnson or Stein aren’t polling above 15% by mid-September but start to edge up after the first debate, they still have a chance to make it onto the stage.

CNN’s poll of polls earlier this month showed Johnson with 9 percent support and Stein with 5 percent support.

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