Clean Elections Commission’s Recent Ruling on Debate Format

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Horizon is the host of the state’s clean elections sponsored debates. The clean elections commission handles debate-invitations to the candidates and does so by way of a set of laws it must follow in setting up debates. This year has been especially challenging for the commission in dealing with candidates.

Gina Roberts, voter education director for the clean elections commission explains recent updates on the governor’s debate format at the clean elections meeting. The committee received a proposal from Katie Hobbs to change the format of the gubernatorial debate. Traditionally, both candidates debate one another.

“The proposal that the commission received suggested that we actually change that into more of a town hall style, where the candidates would be on the stage at separate times and submit two 30 minute Q&A sessions,” Roberts said.

What does the public think of this?

The virtual meeting was open to public comment, and a lot of people showed up to voice their thoughts, according to Roberts.

“For the majority of the public comment that we received, a lot of the voters indicated that their preference was to have a debate with both candidates on the stage,” Roberts said.

After taking a vote, the commission ultimately decided that the candidates should have a debate after hearing from the public and both candidates’ campaigns. The vote was 3-1.

The singular vote against using the traditional debate format reasoned that the town hall format would result in a respectful exchange between the two candidates that would be easily understood by voters.

The three votes in favor of using the debate format referred to the Clean Elections Act, which states that candidates should have a debate.

“The commissioners felt that is what a debate is, having both of the candidates share the same stage, have interaction and engagement with one another, and have those questions presented to them so that the voters have the opportunity to hear directly from the candidates, but also that they have the opportunity to challenge one another,” Roberts said.

For the next week, the commission is working with both candidates to develop a debate format that both candidates can agree on while still illustrating a traditional style debate.

Gina Roberts, Voter Education Director for the Clean Elections Commission

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