This week, Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, Lupe Valdez agreed to debate Gov. Greg Abbott on September 28, in Austin. Nexstar Media Group, the organization hosting the debate, has ceded responsibility for fulling informing voters of their choices by excluding the other candidate who will appear on the ballot: Mark Tippetts of the Libertarian Party. Nexstar requires candidates to have a physical campaign office and have received at least $50,000 in donations.
The state of Texas has burdensome and discriminatory requirements for minor parties to get on the ballot in the first place. The discrimination by the media to exclude candidates who have met the unreasonable requirements of the state does a disservice to voters, who depend on the news media to inform them about their choices, not to suppress divergent points of view.
Voters are often told that voting for a third party or independent candidate is “wasting our vote” or “stealing votes from the other candidate.” This accusation implies that votes belong not to the voter, but to the Republican and Democratic parties.
Perhaps one reason media outlets and polling organizations don’t invite all ballot-qualified candidates to debate is that the state doesn’t publish a list of candidates. A journalism intern can easily find the results of the primaries, but the Secretary of State website does not provide public lists of independent or minor party candidates. Ballots don’t get posted on county websites before September. On the other hand, if two out of the six polling sources can find the full list of candidates, what’s wrong with the other four?
The news media has a responsibility to inform the public about the activities of government. Neglecting to mention statewide candidates who will appear on the ballot is a failure to live up to that responsibility.