Protesters in St. George join national convoy to get Libertarian candidate in presidential debates

ST. GEORGE — Frustrated with presidential debates only hosting candidates from the country’s two major political parties, a handful of local Libertarians joined a national protest Saturday meant to get their party’s candidate heard on the national debate stage.

Robert Briggs paints “” on a cloth taped to the side of a van with “#LetHerSpeak” on it as a part of a Libertarian convoy protest, St. George, Utah, Aug. 8, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Called the “Let Her Speak” campaign by the Libertarian Party, organizers hope to bring broad, public awareness to “the unfairness of the debates” that lock out third-party candidates such as their nominee, Dr. Jo Jorgensen.

“If you look at the debates, you only ever get the two presidential candidates from the Democrats and Republicans. We just want our candidate’s representation,” Robert Briggs said as he painted “#LetHerSpeak” on a cloth he taped to the side of a van.

Like others who gathered in a parking lot at Dixie State University Saturday morning, Briggs was prepping his vehicle to take part in multiple protests across the country that took the form of a vehicle convoy.

According to an online map showing locations of registered #LetHerSpeak protests, at least one or more such events appear to have been planned in each state. In addition to the protest in St. George, Utah saw corresponding events in Salt Lake City and Kaysville. Another was held in Las Vegas.

Libertarian Dustin Hill states the present national presidential system only caters to the nation’s two major parties and locks out third-party candidates like Libertarian nominee Dr. Jo Jorgensen, St. George, Utah, Aug. 8, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, a candidate must “have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate, as determined by five national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recently publicly-reported results at the time of the determination.”

The 15% polling threshold closes out third-party candidates due to their campaigns and parties not having the same level of financial backing and reach of the major parties, which creates an unfair and unlevel playing field, Dustin Hill said.

“This convoy is to let people know that Jo Jorgensen is a serious candidate and to expose that the debates are controlled by the two-party system,” Hill said.

The presidential debates are very important to the election process, Hill said, adding that it allows the public to hear from the candidates directly instead of having their words filtered through the media.

“We just want all the candidates to have an opportunity to speak at the debates,” Briggs said.

A handful of local Libertarians gather at Dixie State University and prepare their vehicles with “” and “#LetHerSpeak” signs as a part of a national convoy protest, St. George, Utah, Aug. 8, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The #LetHerSpeak St. George protest convoy, which consisted of five vehicles decked out in signs, balloons and one hood-mounted unicorn pinata, soon left the parking lot to make a run north up 700 East to St. George Boulevard, then to Bluff Street and then down 700 South.

The question of not allowing third-party candidates on the debate stage came up locally in 2016 when a debate between incumbent Republican Sean Reyes and Democratic challenger Jon Harper in the Utah Attorney General’s race held at Dixie State University was “modified.”

Harper abruptly dropped out of the race that morning, leaving Reyes to answer questions alone in what was coined a “modified debate” by the Utah Debate Commission. However, Andrew McCullough, the Libertarian candidate for the position, was also present at the debate that evening.

Despite calls from some debate attendees to allow McCullough to take Harper’s place on the debate stage, the commission would not allow it as he hadn’t reached the same polling threshold Reyes and Harper had.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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