Judge says senatorial debate can go on without independent candidate

A federal judge ruled today that organizers of a Senate debate this Sunday can exclude independent candidate Shiva Ayyadurai because published polls show him garnering less than 10% of the vote.

US District Court Judge Richard Stearns said that making poll standing a criterion for participation in a debate is "viewpoint neutral," rather than being based on Ayyadurai's views on the issues, and so allowable under a 1998 Supreme Court ruling. Because Ayyadurai polled under 10%, lead organizer WCVB barred him from the debate with incumbent Elizabeth Warren and Republican Geoff Diehl.

That Ayyadurai was able to get this far in the legal process was because the University of Massachusetts is also involved in the debate's planning, which Stearns said raised First Amendment issues, because it is a public institution. Along with WCVB and UMass, the Globe and the Western Massachusetts Media Consortium are sponsoring the debate, which will be aired at 7 p.m. from a Springfield TV studio.

But Stearns continued that the criteria debate organizers used were not biased towards any particular viewpoints, and the fact that of the three candidates this year, only Ayyadurai was blocked from participation does not negate that:

Dr. Ayyadurai advances the non sequitur that because the eligibility criteria, however neutral they may appear on their face, operate to exclude only him from the debate, it follows that they are not viewpoint neutral. Why it so follows is never explained. His political and social views, whatever they may be, are no doubt personal and idiosyncratic to him, and may differ in many material respects from those of the major party candidates. But he offers no evidence that animus towards a particular opinion or opinions that he holds motivated the debate sponsors in setting the 10% polling eligibility threshold.

Stearns then dismissed Ayyadurai's suit with prejudice, so that Ayyadurai could immediately appeal the decision.



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PDF icon Judge's complete order82.01 KB


Oh, no way

The boomer media outlet wants to force two-party dominionism upon us. I don't believe it.

That public licenseholder WCVB is viewed as any less a public entity than UMass is in regard to this case is a travesty. The very presence of this debate airing on over-the-air television should be grounds for inclusion for all candidates on the ballot, regardless of poll numbers.

Voting closed 24

I agree

Will, most of the time I wish I had you on permanent mute but not right now.

As an "independent" candidate myself, it was very hard to get traction when I ran for state representative and when I ran for register of deeds. The local media (all media,I guess) don't like things complicated.

Yes, the independent candidate will not win. Does that even matter?

Voting closed 34

It does

It'll make it that much easier for me to deride the electorate if the indie is allowed to debate and still gets less than 3% of the vote.

Voting closed 18

That's why we have political parties

By on

Like it or not, no democracy in history that was any bigger than a small town has managed to avoid partisanship and remain a democracy. In parliamentary systems, the parties are even deeper in the structure of government than in our system. In Canada and the UK, you vote for a candidate who then supports the party leader to be premier. That's not the limit. If I understand correctly, in Israel and some other small countries, you don't even do that. You vote for a party, not a candidate, and however many seats the party gets it fills with its senior people.

Voting closed 16


By on

I agree with you. However the advantage that the UK has with regard to its parties is proportional representation. So smaller parties do get more votes, and you have more then just two parties. The one issue with the US system is that it is a given that one of the two party representatives will win, so a third party vote is often considered to be a wasted vote.

Voting closed 9

The UK has no PR

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At least for Parliament, it’s first past the post. And for single seat constituencies. Therefore, if Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems, and at one point the UKIP were roughly the same strength in a seat, 27% of the vote could Win a seat, with 73% of the voters left sad.

Voting closed 10

Proportional representation isn't necessarily better

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for a number of reasons.

First is that seats aren't tied to geographic regions. That might be fine in a small town or a small country, but even a place like Massachusetts (let alone the whole US) is big and diverse enough that the right of people in places far from the seat of power to be represented in government would be jeopardized if seats weren't tied to districts.

Second is that large parties are supposed to exert a moderating influence that keeps the lunatics from getting too far. You can certainly make the case that that's an aspiration more than an empirical statement but my point is that our politics would not be less crazy if mainstream right and the mainstream left were deadlocked at 45% of seats each and had to form coalition governments with Communist Party USA or the Georgia and Montana Militias.

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He's gotten so much press, he's sued a number of websites to have it removed!

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Why even bother. Senator Warren will win by 20-30%

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I'm of several minds

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On the one hand, if you're on the ballot, you should be in the debate, right?

But 10,000 signatures are required to be on the ballot, out of Massachusetts millions of registered voters. It's a pretty low threshold. That's good for ballot access, but it's not so helpful if it's a gadfly who'll never get more than a few percent of the vote, like Mr. Ayyadurai.

I think the best way is to let him in the first debate, then require each candidate to clear a threshold for the subsequent debate. Maybe it's 5%, maybe its 10%, maybe 20%. But at least give him the chance to perform well enough in the first debate to get on a roll.

And yes, I think he's a terrible person who has no business representing a neighborhood cookout. But still, democracy, right?

Voting closed 17

Shiva is crazy

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Shiva is a crazy person. He's a nut. He has no respect for the truth. He'd turn any debate into a clown show and completely destroy its usefulness.

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On one hand, I think that if

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On one hand, I think that if you're on the ballot, you should be allowed to debate.

On another, if the main advertising point of your political platform is a personal attack on the ancestry of the incumbent, then maybe you should stay in the basement.

Voting closed 11

The problem is that the polls

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The problem is that the polls are not conducted properly, so the results have to be thrown out. I studied polling methodology, and practically all the current polls are not done properly, including being biased toward certain candidates, eg by placing them first in the answer choices (which increases responses), or by priming the respondent by asking previous questions about one or some of the candidates, and so on.

It's pretty obvious that Shiva Ayyadurai would be polling in the 15-30% range if he was allowed into the debates, and the Democratic/Republican plutocracy and the media decided to be unfair and exclude him rather than allow that to happen. Obviously we are not in a democracy. The fact that UMass is a public institution makes it particularly egregious. Everyone should vote for Shiva just in protest of his not being in the debates, otherwise it legitimizes this strategy (which was used in the 2016 presidential debates as well).

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it is not at all obvious

If the polls used are flawed or conducted improperly then demonstrate it.

Mr Ayyadurai's conduct is your problem. Honestly, I think if he was was included in the debates his polling would go into negatives.

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