Beginning in June 2019, the DNC will hold twelve debates – six debates will be held in 2019 and six debates in 2020. The first two debates scheduled in June and July of 2019 may be split into consecutive nights, if necessary, depending on the number of candidates. If necessary for the consecutive nights debate format, the lineup of candidates will be determined by random selection which will be held publicly. Four of the debates scheduled in 2020 will be held in four of the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Tom Perez, Chairman of the DNC, said the new format is to make the process more fair, more transparent and more inclusive. By not focusing strictly on polling to determine which candidates will participate in the first two debates in 2019, candidates will qualify by meeting criteria that also including other benchmarks that is reflective of a candidate’s support such as grassroots fundraising. To qualify for the first two debates, candidates must:
- meet the benchmark of at least one percent or more in three separate, DNC-approved polls;
- have campaign donations from at least 65,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 states.
In addition, Perez said the DNC will emphasize to media organizations hosting the debates that the discussions should focus on policy issues such as health care and other ‘topics important to the American people’ – not what is the size of any candidate’s hand.
Another positive change from past Democratic debates is the opportunity for candidates to participate in other forums. In the past, candidates were barred from participating in any debates that were not organized and/or sanctioned by the DNC.
Perez stated the new format for debates are the result of many discussions with experts in the field of debates – not with candidates. In addition, major reforms to the Democratic presidential nominating process, including expanded use of primaries and reducing the role of “super delegates” – who are elected officials and party leaders – are now able to support the presidential candidate they wish at the Democratic National Convention.
Note: Debate information is subject to change at any time.