The Commission on Presidential Debates shut down the Trump campaign’s request to either add an extra debate before the first early-voting ballots are cast, or to move one of the three debates to the first week of September.
Trump raised the debate date issue last Friday during an interview on Fox News, in which he pointed out that the first debate is scheduled for late September: “Why are they putting the first debate so late? The first debate should be before the first – at least before the first ballots go out. And they have it a month later, almost a month later. It’s ridiculous.”
In a letter to the debate commission on Wednesday, the Trump campaign argued the request was a matter of avoiding disenfranchising voters, who should have the ability “to see and hear the two major party candidates debate before they have ballots in-hand,” according to a copy obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
But the commission seems to have taken issue with the campaign’s suggestion that as many as 8 million American voters may start early voting before the first presidential debate is held on Sept. 29.
“There is a difference between ballots having been issued by a state and those ballots having been cast by voters, who are under no compulsion to return their ballots before the debates. In 2016, when the debate schedule was similar, only .0069% of the electorate had voted at the time of the first debate,” said the debate commission in its own letter responding to the Trump campaign.
“While more people will likely vote by mail in 2020, the debate schedule has been and will be highly publicized. Any voter who wishes to watch one or more debates before voting will be well aware of that opportunity,” the commission added.
The Trump campaign had also requested the commission develop adequate back-up plans in case the pandemic interferes with the debate schedule, and concluded the letter by submitting a list of journalists to consider as moderators.
The commission responded:
The Commission has been and remains highly focused on the possible impact of the pandemic on the debates. We have retained Cleveland Clinic as Health Security Advisor for the debates, and we are working closely with the Clinic on all aspects of debate planning potentially affected by the pandemic. The Commission will be ready for any contingency that is necessary as a result of the pandemic.
Finally, the Commission will adhere to our longstanding procedure of selecting the debate moderators. It will do so with great care, as always, to ensure that the selected moderators are qualified and fair.
North Carolina, the first state to send out ballots in the mail, will send out pre-requested absentee ballots beginning on Sept. 4. Several other states, including Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, will do so as well by mid-September, according to NBC News.
The general election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 3.