Commission on presidential debates considers taking crowdsourced questions

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The Commission on Presidential Debates will start discussions on the formats of the four general election debates fall 2016 (three presidential, one vice presidential). And while the commission, made up of former party officials, politicians and some academics, is keen to incorporate new technologies and even open debate formats, they’re grappling with the question of how to seamlessly weave together the traditional role of a moderator, as both writer and presenter of questions, and that of a voting public that is used to having its voices heard on social media.

"We have had over the years what we call the town hall formats. So we’ve had a format in which average citizens ask questions of the candidates,” said Mike McCurry, former White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton and co-chair (along with former Republican National Committee Chair Frank Fahrenkopf) of the CPD. "But social media gives you many more possibilities to engage more people in that sort of conversation. So we’ve been thinking how do we incorporate that into format of the debate. So we’ve had some good conversations on that." One of the possibilities the commission is watching is the “open debate format” proposed by the bipartisan Open Debate Coalition in which the questions are crowdsourced. Everyday, voters submit questions in advance, with the moderators choosing from the 30 questions with the greatest number of votes. The format is being tested April 25 in a debate for a senate race between Reps David Jolly (R-FL) and Alan Grayson (D-FL).


Commission on presidential debates considers taking crowdsourced questions