Commission on Presidential Debates
October 11, 2019

Commission on Presidential Debates Announces Sites and Dates for 2020 General Election Debates and 2020 Nonpartisan Candidate Selection Criteria 

The nonpartisan, nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) today announced sites and dates for three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate during the 2020 general election.  The sites and dates are:

First presidential debate:
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN

Vice presidential debate:
Wednesday, October 7, 2020
The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Second presidential debate:
Thursday, October 15, 2020
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Third presidential debate:
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Belmont University, Nashville, TN

The CPD will announce additional details about the 2020 general election debates, including format and moderators, in 2020. All debates will start at 9:00pm ET and will run for 90 minutes without commercial interruption.
The CPD was established in 1987 and has sponsored and produced all general election presidential and vice presidential debates since then. The CPD receives no funding from the government or any political party or campaign.
More information can be found at or @debates.

2020 Nonpartisan Candidate Selection Criteria
Each election cycle, hundreds of individuals declare their candidacy for the Office of President of the United States, including many who do not seek the nomination of a major political party. Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations require a debate sponsor to make its candidate selection decisions on the basis of “pre-established, objective” criteria.

Under the 2020 criteria, in addition to being Constitutionally eligible, candidates must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College, and have a level of support of at least 15% of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recently publicly-reported results at the time of the determination. The polls to be relied upon will be selected based on the quality of the methodology employed, the reputation of the polling organizations and the frequency of the polling conducted. The CPD will identify the selected polling organizations well in advance of the time the criteria are applied.
The CPD’s determination with respect to participation in the CPD’s first-scheduled debate will be made after Labor Day 2020, 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 mate of each of the presidential candidates qualifying for participation in the CPD’s first presidential debate. Invitations to participate in the second and third of the CPD’s scheduled presidential debates will be based upon satisfaction of the same multiple criteria prior to each debate.
The CPD adopted its 2020 criteria based on the recommendations of a working group of its Board chaired by former League of Women Voters President Dorothy Ridings, who serves as a Co-Chair of the CPD.  Ms. Ridings explained: "We concluded that the CPD serves its voter education mission best when, in the final weeks of the campaign, based on pre-established, published, objective and transparent criteria, it identifies those individuals whose public support places them among the leading candidates and invites them to debate the issues of the day.  We also concluded that the best available measure of public support is high-quality public opinion polling conducted near the time of the debates." 
The criteria for 2020 were adopted unanimously by the CPD Board.



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 eight 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 2020 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 seven 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 most fully and fairly to 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 2020 debates.  The purpose of the criteria is to identify those candidates whose support among the electorate places them among the candidates who have a realistic chance of being elected President of the United States.  The realistic chance need not be overwhelming, but it must be more than theoretical.

In connection with the 2020 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 the 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.


The CPD’s nonpartisan criteria for selecting candidates to participate in the 2020 general election presidential debates are:

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.


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 2020 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.                                                                                                                              
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 national public opinion polling organizations selected by CPD, using the average of those organizations’ most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination. CPD will rely on the advice of a recognized expert or experts in public opinion polling in determining the polls it will rely upon. The polls to be relied upon will be selected based on the quality of the methodology employed, the reputation of the polling organizations and the frequency of the polling conducted.  CPD will identify the selected polling organizations well in advance of the time the criteria are applied.


The CPD’s determination with respect to participation in the CPD’s first-scheduled debate will be made after Labor Day 2020, 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 mate of each of the presidential candidates qualifying for participation in the CPD’s first presidential debate.  Invitations to participate in the second and third of the CPD’s scheduled presidential debates will be based upon satisfaction of the same multiple criteria prior to each debate.

Adopted: October 1, 2019

University of Notre Dame
October 11, 2019

Notre Dame to host 2020 U.S. presidential debate

For the first time, the University of Notre Dame will host a U.S. presidential debate, a decision announced on Oct. 11 (Friday) by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).

The debate at Notre Dame will be the first debate in the 2020 election series. It will take place on Sept. 29, 2020, (Tuesday) in the Purcell Pavilion of the Joyce Center.

“The heart of democracy is addressing significant questions in open, reasoned discussion that will inform voters as they prepare to cast their votes,” said University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., also a member of the CPD board of directors. “Standing apart from the glitz and spin of modern campaigns, the presidential debates are that solemn moment in our national life when candidates are invited to discuss seriously the central issues before us.”

He added, “Notre Dame, along with the South Bend-Mishawaka-Elkhart region, will be in the global spotlight as a debate host. We will work closely with our community partners so that the region is ready to shine for our guests from around the country and the world.”

The Commission on Presidential Debates is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and has sponsored all general election presidential and vice presidential debates since 1988.  

Notre Dame has a long history of welcoming sitting presidents, vice presidents and candidates for national office to campus for various speaking engagements and ceremonies. Nine U.S. presidents have been awarded Notre Dame honorary degrees, and six have addressed graduates at the University Commencement Ceremony, the most of any college or university in the country.

The University’s series of sitting presidents began in 1960 when former Notre Dame President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., invited President Dwight Eisenhower to be the first president to deliver a Commencement speech at Notre Dame.

President Jimmy Carter made what many regard as the key foreign policy address of his presidency at Notre Dame’s 1977 Commencement exercises. He returned to Notre Dame on March 4, 2015, to participate in a memorial tribute to Father Hesburgh. 

In May 1981, President Ronald Reagan made his first public appearance after the attempt on his life in March of that year. He was also the principal speaker on campus in 1988 at the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service stamp honoring legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. Reagan portrayed Fighting Irish football player George Gipp in the 1940 film “Knute Rockne, All American.”

President George H.W. Bush was the University’s principal Commencement speaker in 1992. Over the years, he appeared on campus five times.

Bush’s son, President George W. Bush, delivered his first presidential commencement address at Notre Dame in May 2001. He returned to campus in October 2017 to help dedicate O’Neill Hall, named for Joseph I. O’Neill III, a longtime friend of the Bushes.

President Barack Obama received his first honorary degree and delivered the principal address at Notre Dame’s 2009 commencement.

Notre Dame also awarded honorary degrees to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Gerald Ford, at special academic convocations, and to John F. Kennedy as a U.S. congressman in 1950.

More recently, Vice President Mike Pence addressed graduates at the 2017 University Commencement Ceremony. A year earlier, then-Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner received Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, the most prestigious award given to American Catholics.

The debate is expected to draw thousands of regional, national and international media representatives to the area.

More details about the presidential debate at Notre Dame will be available in the weeks and months ahead on

University of Utah
October 11, 2019

University of Utah to host 2020 Vice Presidential Debate

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced today that the University of Utah has been selected to host the vice presidential debate on Oct. 7, 2020, at Kingsbury Hall in the Nancy Peery Marriott Auditorium. This is the first time a national debate will be hosted in Utah.

The Commission on Presidential Debates in a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and has sponsored all general election presidential and vice presidential debates since 1988.

“It is a tremendous honor to host a vice presidential debate and we are delighted to have this opportunity to showcase our university and our state,” said Ruth Watkins, president of the University of Utah. “I am excited for our students to be able to participate in this important component of the political process. It will be an incredible educational experience for them. Civic engagement is a core value of our democracy and students will be able to see firsthand how being involved in the political process matters.”

Utah is the only western state selected for one of three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate.

“Utah has a proven record of successfully hosting events on a large scale,” said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. “The 2002 Winter Olympics are widely considered to be the most economically successful in Olympic history. Our citizens have an excellent reputation for hospitality and Salt Lake City has a strong infrastructure for travel and tourism. We look forward to welcoming the 2020 candidates and media from across the world.”

“Utah has the opportunity to once again stand on the world stage to showcase our citizens, our values and our tremendous Utah lifestyle,” said Thomas Wright, co-chair of the Utah Debate Commission. “On behalf of the Utah Debate Commission and our University of Utah partners, I want to thank our state leaders for their vision, perseverance and hard work as well as all those who have supported the effort to host a debate in Utah.”

Additional details about the debates, including format and moderators, will be announced in 2020 by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

“It has always been the mission of the Hinckley Institute and the University of Utah to provide our students with unparalleled and transformative opportunities to learn about politics and become civically engaged,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics and vice president for Government Relations. “Hosting a 2020 vice presidential debate will allow us to accomplish both of these goals on a world stage.”

“The selection of Salt Lake City as a venue for a vice presidential debate offers residents throughout the state an especially unique opportunity for civic engagement,” said Karen Hale, co-chair of the Utah Debate Commission. “The national—and international—focus on a vice presidential debate here in Utah has the capacity to elevate residents’ curiosity and awareness about the issues and the candidates.”

University of Michigan
October 11, 2019

University of Michigan selected to host Presidential Debate in 2020

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan will host a Presidential Debate on Oct. 15, 2020, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced today.

The debate, which will take place in the university’s Crisler Center, will be the second in a series of three Presidential Debates next year prior to the November election.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the university community to contribute to our democracy, while setting an example of civic engagement and shining a light on the outstanding academic strengths of our institution,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel. “Public service and civic engagement are at the core of our great university and its history.”

The debate will be staged largely on the university’s athletics campus. Crisler Center is home to the men’s and women’s basketball teams and the women’s gymnastics team. Educational and outreach activities will take place in facilities near Crisler Center and in other parts of the Ann Arbor campus.

The university is the alma mater of former President Gerald R. Ford, whose legacy lives on in the Ford School of Public Policy, which is helping to lead U-M’s debate initiative, and in his presidential library, which sits on the campus. Ford was an honorary co-chair of the CPD.

U-M has been the site of many important events in U.S. history, including President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” speech and the clinical trials of the Salk polio vaccine. It was on the steps of the Michigan Union that presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy delivered his speech in 1960 announcing his vision of what would become the Peace Corps.

“For generations, the University of Michigan has led the way in advancing understanding of our nation’s most pressing issues—and next year our students, faculty and staff will have a novel opportunity to enhance this essential quality of our mission at the national level,” Schlissel said.

The university community can anticipate themes related to democracy, the election and the debate—from cybersecurity, to voting rights, to the meaning of truth—to be woven throughout the coming year, providing opportunity to engage with the electoral process, through curricular and co-curricular experiences and various public events enhanced by being a debate site.
The CPD announced in September that former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have agreed to become honorary co-chairs of the CPD.

Information on public events and media access will be announced in the months to come. Visit: Join the debate conversation at @Debate2020UMich on Twitter and Instagram.

Commission on Presidential Debates
CPD is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and has sponsored all general election presidential and vice presidential debates since 1988.

University of Michigan
One of the nation’s top public universities, the University of Michigan has been a leader in research, learning and teaching for more than 200 years. Enrollment of undergraduate, graduate and professional students is more than 46,000 with 3,000-plus faculty members. U-M’s alumni body is one of the largest in the world and includes a U.S. president, scientists, actors, astronauts and inventors. The main campus in Ann Arbor comprises 19 schools and colleges; there are regional campuses in Dearborn and Flint and a nationally ranked health system, Michigan Medicine. In 2017, U-M celebrated its bicentennial, marking its founding in the city of Detroit in 1817.

Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
The Ford School is a top-ranked public policy school dedicated to the public good. The school inspires and prepares diverse leaders grounded in service, conducts transformational research, and collaborates on evidence-based policymaking to take on our communities’ and our world’s most pressing challenges. With its origins in the first program of public administration established in 1914, the school was named for former President Ford in 1999. The Ford School is ranked #1 in public policy analysis and #1 in social policy, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Belmont University
October 11, 2019


Commission on Presidential Debates selects Belmont for Oct. 22, 2020 debate, final slot 12 days prior to Nov. 3 vote

NASHVILLE, October 11, 2019 –  The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced today that Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.—home of the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate—will again host a presidential debate on Thurs., Oct. 22, 2020. This will be the third and final presidential debate of the 2020 campaign season, occurring less than two weeks before Americans go to the polls to vote.

Following an intensive application and site survey process, Belmont was selected as one of four debate sites (three presidential and one vice presidential) nationwide, making the University and Middle Tennessee vital locations in an election that will determine the nation’s direction.

Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “When opportunity comes knocking, Belmont University eagerly opens the door. This campus is known for swinging at every pitch and embracing big occasions, consistently pursuing ways to defy the status quo in higher education and provide students—and the community at large—with phenomenal learning experiences. Hosting the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate put Belmont University at the center of one of the most historic presidential elections in American history. To be selected again is a great honor, and I’m confident that together we will once again exceed expectations in producing this internationally important event.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee noted, “It is terrific news that Belmont University has been chosen to host a presidential debate in 2020. Belmont has been a proven leader in our state and in our nation, and it is an honor to have another chance to showcase this outstanding university and our state to the world next fall.”

Mayor of Nashville and Davidson County John Cooper said, “I congratulate Belmont University on their successful bid to host a 2020 Presidential debate. This is an exciting moment for Belmont and for Nashville. In hosting mayoral debates earlier this year, Belmont played a vital role in shaping the conversation around moving our city forward. We look forward to hosting this conversation on the national stage.”

The 2020 Presidential Debate at Belmont University will be held in the Curb Event Center, home of the NCAA Division-I Belmont Bruins basketball and volleyball teams. The debate is expected to attract huge numbers of national and international media to Nashville, along with the candidates’ campaigns and supporters, and will be viewed by millions worldwide.

According to Nielsen Media Ratings, more than 63.2 million homes nationwide tuned in to view the Town Hall Presidential Debate held on Oct. 7, 2008, the largest television audience of the three presidential debates held that fall. USA Today political writer Chuck Raasch noted at the time, “Belmont University in Nashville proved that small places with big ambitions could be world-class stages.”


In addition to hosting the Town Hall Presidential Debate, Belmont planned and offered a slate of more than 100 debate-related programs during the 2008-09 academic year, including appearances by award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and New York Times bestselling author and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough. Numerous speaker series were scheduled along with visual and performing arts events and special voter engagement activities, all centered on the theme “The Art of Being Free.” 


Belmont Provost Dr. Thomas Burns anticipates hosting a 2020 debate to provide another banner year of educational opportunities for Belmont students and the broader community. “It’s rare to have such an opportunity to be on the front lines of all of the critical issues facing our nation and the world, and we intend to take full advantage of this debate by promoting exceptional educational experiences to benefit our students and all of Middle Tennessee.”

Civic organizations along with state and local government officials have endorsed Belmont’s bid for the presidential debate with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, former Mayor David Briley, Senators Marsha Blackburn and Lamar Alexander, and Congressman Jim Cooper, among others, all contributing letters of support. Newly elected Nashville Mayor John Cooper has also pledged his support.

The past 18 months alone demonstrate Belmont’s unique ability to host major events as the University was home to the international Davis Cup tennis competition, taping in 2018 and 2019 of the nationally broadcast “CMA Country Christmas” special, a visit from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and the Nashville premiere of new Ken Burns’s documentary, “Country Music.” Moreover, Belmont has long been known for its commitment to civic discourse and citizen education, as a frequent host of mayoral and gubernatorial debates and forums.

Belmont University also launched its Debate 2020 website this morning at belmontdebate2020.comand will be using the #BelmontDebate2020 hashtag throughout the next year in celebration of all of the events that will surround this historic season.


About The Commission on Presidential Debates

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and has sponsored all general election presidential and vice presidential debates since 1988. 

About Belmont University

Nationally ranked and consistently recognized as a “Most Innovative” university by U.S. News & World Report, Belmont University is home to nearly 8,500 students who come from every state and more than 36 countries. Committed to being a leader among teaching universities, Belmont brings together the best of liberal arts and professional education in a Christian community of learning and service. The University’s purpose is to help students explore their passions and develop their talents to meet the world’s needs. With more than 95 areas of undergraduate study, more than 25 master’s programs and five doctoral degrees, there is no limit to the ways Belmont University can expand an individual's horizon. For more information, visit