The Commission on Presidential Debates said Thursday that it sees no need to change the schedule of this year’s debates, after President Trump’s campaign called for a debate to be held in early September.
The campaign cited an expected surge in early voting due to the pandemic as the reason for the request.
“While more people will likely vote by mail in 2020, the debate schedule has been and will be highly publicized,” commission co-chairs Frank Fahrenkopf, Dorothy Ridings, and Kenneth Wollack wrote in a letter to Trump campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani. “Any voter who wishes to watch one or more debates before voting will be well aware of that opportunity.”
The Commission on Presidential Debates previously announced three presidential debates on Sept. 29, Oct. 15, and Oct. 22, as well as one vice presidential debate on Oct. 7.
Giuliani noted to the commission that 16 states will have already started voting by Sept. 29, calling the existing schedule “an outdated dinosaur and not reflective of voting realities in 2020.”
NEWS Commission on Presidential Debates rejects Giuliani's request for a fourth debate in early Sept, saying voters who get their ballots before the first scheduled debate are not compelled to submit them before the debate. They also push back on his request to choose moderators. pic.twitter.com/Uow32SZeKx
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) August 6, 2020
The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in events being cancelled and conventions being scaled back.
“Certainly former Vice President Biden would agree with the need to avoid having millions of Americans disenfranchised by not being able to see and hear the two major party candidates debate before they have ballots in-hand,” Giuliani wrote.
However, the commission chairs responded that voters who receive ballots before Sept. 29 will be under no obligation to return them until after all of the debates are held.
They added that an additional debate would be considered if both Trump and Biden agree to it.
On Thursday, President Trump tweeted:
How can voters be sending in Ballots starting, in some cases, one month before the First Presidential Debate. Move the First Debate up. A debate, to me, is a Public Service. Joe Biden and I owe it to the American People!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2020
However, the Biden campaign rejected previous efforts by Giuliani and the Trump campaign in June to schedule more debates and hold them sooner.
Meanwhile, both campaigns have asked the commission to finalize contingency plans and logistics in case other obstacles develop.
In addition, Democrats agree that a schedule change is a valid suggestion.
“The presidential debates should be moved up in the schedule to reflect large numbers voting by mail and must include questions from real people – whether they are in the audience or not,” said Democratic strategist Bradley Honan.
Biden announced Wednesday that he will not travel to Milwaukee to accept the Democratic nomination in person later this month.
Despite consistently being among the most-watched television events of an election year, presidential debates rarely have a significant impact on the actual race.