The non-profit organization that manages U.S. presidential debates announced Friday that only the candidates from the two major parties will be allowed to participate in the first debate on September 26.
The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) said Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton reached the required threshold of support by averaging at least 15 percent in five public opinion polls the commission selected last month.
According to the CPD, Clinton averaged 43 percent and Trump averaged 40.4 percent in the polls.
Libertarian party candidate Gary Johnson (8.4 percent) and Green party candidate Jill Stein (3.2 percent) did not meet the support qualifications and therefore won't be invited to the debate, which will be held at Hofstra University in the northeastern town of Hempstead, New York, and broadcast across the U.S.
The CPD also said the Democratic and Republican vice presidential candidates, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, will be the only participants in the October 4 debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.
Third party candidates unhappy
"I would say I am surprised that the CPD has chosen to exclude me from the first debate, but I’m not," Johnson said in a statement. He added the commission was an invention of the two major parties, created to exclude third parties from televised debates.
The Green Party announced it would hold an event outside Hofstra University the evening of the presidential debate. A message asking supporters to participate in the protest indicated the campaign may have volunteers attempt to escort Stein into the debate and warned that "This situation may lead to arrest."
The CPD announced the following criteria for the 2016 debates last year in late October:
• Be constitutionally eligible;
• Appear on enough state ballots to have a chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College; and
• Have at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected public opinion polls.
The CPD said the same measures will be used to determine which candidates are invited to the next presidential debates, scheduled for October 9 in St. Louis and October 19 in Las Vegas.