Round Up: UK’s “Great Debate” on EU Referendum, US Third Party Candidates Aim for Debate Stage, and More

Plus: Presidential debates are credited with increasing voter turnout in the Philippines, and from Massachusetts to Montana, debates are proposed, considered, and even run by high school students.

The EU Referendum leaflet prepared by the U.K. government.

The EU Referendum: Should the U.K. Stay or Should it Go
Prime Minister David Cameron will not appear in a head-to-head television debate ahead of the European referendum vote on June 23. He has, however, agreed to a special BBC “Question Time” program before a live audience. Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who is anti-EU, will participate on a different date.


Similarly, Cameron and UKIP leader Nigel Farage will appear on an ITV News program, but both will be quizzed separately by the studio audience. ITV has put out a call for audience members to take part in the June 7 event, along with a second event on June 9 featuring political figures on both sides of the issue.
On June 21, the BBC will host The Great Debate, a live, televised debate at London’s Wembley Arena featuring senior politicians and other key figures. The audience, chosen by lottery, will be split between people likely to vote to remain in the EU and those likely to vote to leave.  
The Mirror hosted a debate earlier this month with a six-member panel that streamed live on the tabloid’s website. The studio audience was encouraged to take out their phones and tweet during the debate using the hashtag #MirrorLiveEU, and pre-selected members of the audience were called upon to ask questions.

Debates a Factor in Voter Turnout in the Philippines
Andres “Andy” Bautista, head of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the Philippines, said the series of debates Comelec organized around the country with various media outlets contributed to high voter turnout in the presidential election this month. More than 40 million Filipinos, 81 percent of the total voters, went to the polls, surpassing voter turnout in the last presidential election in 2010.

“One thing which we did differently this year as opposed to the previous elections was the presidential debates,” he said, noting that holding them in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao instead of in the capital made the election more “participative.”
The three #PiliPinasDebates2016 generated nearly 5 million tweets worldwide, according to eGov Innovation. Other numbers of note: 22 million people took part in Facebook conversations about the election, generating more than 268 million interactions, and there were more than 35 million election-related tweets.

Australia Debate Features the People’s Forum
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Sunday will take part in the “first formal debate of the election campaign in prime time” as they field questions from a panel of journalists. Earlier this month, Turnbull and Shorten engaged in a town-hall style debate called the “people’s forum,” answering questions from 100 undecided voters. The audience declared Shorten the winner. Twitter reaction and commentary is at #ausvotes.
Ghana Moves Forward with Presidential Debate Plans
The Institute of Economic Affairs in Ghana will host a debate series for presidential candidates. Three of the four qualifying parties have confirmed participation; the governing National Democratic Congress is still deciding. The National Commission for Civic Education intends to organize debates for parliamentary candidates in all 275 constituencies. General elections will be held on Nov. 7.

U.S. Debates

TBD: Presidential Debate Format
Wright State University in Ohio, host to the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, is working with the Commission on Presidential Debates on finalizing the configuration of the university’s Nutter Center.  

“The final format for the debate, either at podiums, a table with the moderator in the middle, or a town-hall approach, has not been agreed upon yet,” Greg Lehman writes in Venues Today, a trade magazine. “This is an especially important design feature since it determines the placement of the candidates, and impacts seating, as well and the configuration of the arena.”

Originally told to expect between 3,000 and 4,000 members of the media, the university is now preparing for more than 5,000 and an international viewing audience of 400 million. The date of the event falls on the 56th anniversary of the first televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon in 1960.

Double Digits
Polls are showing growing support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor who also ran for president in 2012, writes Nora Kelly in The Atlantic. If he can get at least 15 percent of the vote in five national surveys, he’ll make it onto the presidential debate stage this fall—assuming, of course, he does well at the nominating convention this weekend in Orlando.
In an earlier story, Kelly covers the chicken-and-egg challenge facing the Libertarian Party: getting voters’ attention requires participation in the general-election debates.
“When people watch those debates, they think those are the candidates running,” said National Committee Executive Director Wes Benedict, “and others must not matter if they’re not in those televised debates.”  
Meanwhile, RT America broadcasted Green Party and Libertarian Party primary debates. The Green Party debate included frontrunner Jill Stein; the Libertarian Party frontrunners sat out the debate.
Primary Debates #TBT
After nine televised debates and 13 forums, the Democratic primary debate season is over, now that Hillary Clinton has decided against debating Bernie Sanders in California.
Meanwhile, we have already reached the point of reviewing memorable moments from the GOP primary debates. If you feel the need to reminisce, start here. And don’t miss Dahlia Lithwick’s remembrance of being on the college debate circuit with former presidential hopeful Ted Cruz.
“Most of my memories of debating Ted Cruz involve being hollered at,” she writes. I feel her pain.

State Debates

West Virginia: Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Cole has proposed seven debates around the state with Democratic nominee Jim Justice. The Justice campaign is not ruling out the possibility of debates, though the candidate did say, “Bill Cole is dusting off the old political playbook. They tell me, anytime your opponent is losing, they come crying for debates.”
The West Virginia Press Association, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and AARP West Virginia have stepped forward to host a gubernatorial debate on Oct. 4 with the hope of attracting both candidates. The hosts have promised comprehensive TV, radio, internet and print coverage reaching all 55 counties.  
“Gubernatorial Debates: Do You Care?” is the headline of a WDTV story asking whether voters would rather see Justice and Cole hold multiple debates or make campaign stops around the state. Not sure why it’s an either-or situation.
Montana: Denise Juneau, the first American Indian woman elected to statewide office in Montana and the Democratic candidate for the state’s lone U.S. House Seat, has called for six debates with incumbent U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke and Libertarian candidate Mike Fellows.
Juneau suggested holding the debates in various locations around the state, including on one of Montana’s seven recognized Indian reservations, with independent news or community organizations acting as moderators.
North Carolina: Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat running for governor, invited Gov. Pat McGrory to join him in two live debates and public forums. McGrory agreed to the debates—and called for two more.   
Iowa: The Des Moines Register and CBS affiliate KCCI are co-sponsoring debates featuring Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives (3rd Congressional District). The primary is June 7. In addition to broadcasting the debates on KCCI-TV, a livestream will be available at and, and on the Register and the KCCI apps.

“Debates are an important part of our political process that allow voters to understand where candidates stand on some of the most important issues facing our state and nation,” Register Executive Editor Amalie Nash said in a statement.

In other Iowa news, a Sioux City Journal editorial praises U.S. Rep. Steve King and his Republican primary opponent, state Sen. Rick Bertrand, for agreeing to a debate on June 3 hosted by the Journal and KTIV-TV.
“Face-to-face debates provide, we believe, an invaluable opportunity unlike any other for the public to take the measure of candidates for office,” reads the editorial. “King, in particular, deserves credit for acceptance of the debate offer because, let’s be honest, it would have been easy for him as a seven-term incumbent in the state’s most Republican congressional district to take the safe route and decline to debate his first re-election primary challenger.”

Massachusetts: Continuing a Cape Cod tradition, five Democratic and Republican candidates for the Cape & Islands District state Senate seat participated in a debate this week organized by high school students. The students, members of an advanced placement U.S. government class at Monomoy Regional High School in Harwich, assumed the roles of moderator, panelists, and timers. And they tweeted the candidates’ answers, too (alas, no hashtag).