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No More Closed Presidential Debates!

Closed Debates? NO MORE in 2004!

Background: From 1976 through 1984 the televised presidential debates were organized by the non-partisan League of Women Voters until the Republican and Democratic parties decided to control the debates themselves. In 1987 the bi-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was formed – a private entity run by former chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties. Each election cycle the two campaigns negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding which the CPD follows. Bill Moyer’s NOW has a link to the 2004 MOU (the first one to be made public).

The CPD’s candidate selection criteria are exclusionary since they require that candidates average at least 15% support in 5 national polls. This makes it very difficult for any 3rd parties to get their views heard in the debates. It also keeps the debates limited to two candidates who are very similar on all but a handful of issues. The two major parties agree on many important issues such as “free” trade agreements and corporate globalization. This is just fine with the major corporations who sponsor the debates.

After democracy advocates repeatedly tried and failed to persuade the CPD to open its events (even with two candidates who large majorities of the public wanted to see debate in 2000), it became imperative to replace the anti-democratic CPD.

Legal action against the Commission on Presidential Debates:

In 2004, a wide range of civic groups formed the Citizens’ Debate Commission to return control of the debates to an independent, nonpartisan body that serves the public, not private interest.

How should inclusion in the presidential debates be determined?

Here are some options:


Visit the DEBATES ACTION PAGE or use the following links to jump to a section of that page.

There are 4 main strategies to deal with the rigged debates:

  1. Put on pressure before the debates
    [Targets: Major CandidatesTV NetworksLocal NewspapersCorporate SponsorsDebates Commission]
  2. Citizens’ debates
  3. Hold massive protests at the debates
  4. Sue the Bastards

Debates Schedule 2004

As planned by the Citizens’ Debate Commission:
DebateDateHost SiteLocation
1st Presidential DebateWed, Sept 22Capital UniversityColumbus, OH
2nd Presidential DebateTues, Sept 28Swarthmore CollegeSwarthmore, PA
3rd Presidential DebateTues, Oct 3Canisius CollegeBuffalo, NY
Vice-Presidential DebateThur, Oct 7Willamette UniversitySalem, OR
4th Presidential DebateMon, Oct 11Carleton CollegeNorthfield, MN
5th Presidential DebateFri, Oct 15Nova Southeastern UniversityFort Lauderdale, FL

As planned by the Commission on Presidential Debates:
(All debates will be aired at 9:00 pm Eastern Time)
Debate/Protest WebsiteDateHost SiteLocation
1st Presidential Debate
Thur, Sept. 30University of MiamiCoral Gables, FL
Vice-Presidential Debate
Shadow Debate & Protest
Tues, Oct 5Case Western Reserve UniversityCleveland, OH
2nd Presidential Debate
Protest Website:
Fri, Oct 8Washington UniversitySt. Louis, MO
3rd Presidential Debate
Protest Website:
Wed, Oct 13Arizona State UniversityTempe, AZ
Alternate sites: Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester NY & University of South Carolina, Columbia SC

How can I get involved in the debates protests?

Brief History of Presidential Debates

Who are some of the better-known candidates?PartyPresident / Vice-President CandidatesRepublican Party:George W. Bush / Dick CheneyDemocratic Party:John Kerry / John EdwardsIndependent &
Reform Party:Ralph Nader / Peter CamejoGreen Party:David Cobb / Pat LaMarcheLibertarian Party:Michael Badnarik / Richard CampagnaConstitution Party:Michael Peroutka / Chuck Baldwin

[Note: There are other candidates for President as well. You can find out about them at Ballot Access News and Yahoo’s 2004 Presidential Candidates page.]

2000 Debates:


This website is dedicated to support efforts to open up the debates to include third party candidates. Many topics that are very important to a large percentage of the American public WILL NOT be covered by Bush and Kerry should these be the only two candidates allowed to participate. Don’t let the Commission on Presidential Debates take your choices away!

Last modified: 13 September 2004