Commission on Presidential Debates Releases 2004 Candidate Selection Criteria

Sep 24, 2003

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which has sponsored all general election presidential debates since 1988, today released its Candidate Selection Criteria for the 2004 general election presidential debates.

CPD co-chairmen Paul G. Kirk, Jr. and Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. noted that after each of the last four general elections, the CPD had undertaken a review of the candidate selection criteria used in that year’s debates. After studying the criteria used in 2000, the CPD board of directors unanimously adopted the same three-part standard for 2004. “The Commission believes this approach is both clear and straightforward,” Kirk and Fahrenkopf said.

As in 2000, Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll, will serve as a consultant to the CPD in connection with the application of the 2004 criteria.

Established in 1987, the CPD is the non-partisan, non-profit, tax-exempt, (501)(c)(3) organization that sponsored the presidential debates in 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000. The CPD will announce sites and dates for the 2004 debates in November, 2003.

Commission on Presidential Debates’ Nonpartisan Candidate Selection Criteria for 2004 General Election Debate Participation

A. Introduction

The mission of the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates (the “CPD”) is to ensure, for the benefit of the American electorate, that general election debates are held every four years between the leading candidates for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States. The CPD sponsored a series of such debates in each of the past four general elections, and has begun the planning, preparation, and organization of a series of nonpartisan debates among leading candidates for the Presidency and Vice Presidency in the 2004 general election. As in prior years, the CPD’s voter educational activities will be conducted in accordance with all applicable legal requirements, including regulations of the Federal Election Commission that require that debate sponsors extend invitations to debate based on the application of “pre-established, objective” criteria.

The goal of the CPD’s debates is to afford the members of the public an opportunity to sharpen their views, in a focused debate format, of those candidates from among whom the next President and Vice President will be selected. In each of the last four elections, there were scores of declared candidates for the Presidency, excluding those seeking the nomination of one of the major parties. During the course of the campaign, the candidates are afforded many opportunities in a great variety of forums to advance their candidacies. In order to most fully and fairly achieve the educational purposes of its debates, the CPD has developed nonpartisan, objective criteria upon which it will base its decisions regarding selection of the candidates to participate in its 2004 debates. The purpose of the criteria is to identify those candidates who have achieved a level of electoral support such that they realistically are considered to be among the principal rivals for the Presidency.

In connection with the 2004 general election, the CPD will apply three criteria to each declared candidate to determine whether that candidate qualifies for inclusion in one or more of CPD’s debates. The criteria are (1) constitutional eligibility, (2) ballot access, and (3) electoral support. All three criteria must be satisfied before a candidate will be invited to debate.

B. 2004 Nonpartisan Selection Criteria

The CPD’s nonpartisan criteria for selecting candidates to participate in its 2004 general election presidential debates are:

1. Evidence of Constitutional Eligibility
The CPD’s first criterion requires satisfaction of the eligibility requirements of Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. The requirements are satisfied if the candidate:
a. is at least 35 years of age;
b. is a Natural Born Citizen of the United States and a resident of the United States
for fourteen years; and
c. is otherwise eligible under the Constitution.
2. Evidence of Ballot Access
The CPD’s second criterion requires that the candidate qualify to have his/her name appear on enough state ballots to have at least a mathematical chance of securing an Electoral College majority in the 2004 general election. Under the Constitution, the candidate who receives a majority of votes in the Electoral College, at least 270 votes, is elected President regardless of the popular vote.
3. Indicators of Electoral Support
The CPD’s third criterion requires that the candidate have a level of support of at least 15% (fifteen percent) of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recent publicly reported results at the time of the determination.

C. Application of Criteria

CPD’s determination with respect to participation in CPD’s first-scheduled debate will be made after Labor Day 2004, but sufficiently in advance of the first-scheduled debate to allow for orderly planning. Invitations to participate in the vice-presidential debate will be extended to the running mates of each of the presidential candidates qualifying for participation in CPD’s first presidential debate. Invitations to participate in the second and third of CPD’s scheduled presidential debates will be based upon satisfaction of the same multiple criteria prior to each debate.

Adopted: September 2003