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DNC Announces Plan for 12 Presidential Primary Debates; First Slated for June

WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee announced a plan for 12 primary debates in the 2020 presidential cycle, with the first planned for June.

The DNC also said it was possible that a debate could be held over consecutive nights to deal with a potentially large field of contenders.

“My goal in this framework is to give the grassroots a bigger voice than ever before; to showcase our candidates on an array of media platforms; to present opportunity for vigorous discussion about issues, ideas, and solutions; and to reach as many potential voters as possible,” Tom Perez, the chairman of the DNC, said in a statement.

Given the possibility of 20-plus contenders, the debates may take on even more importance, as so many campaigns will be reliant on the national exposure to stand out.

Sponsors and other details of the debates will be announced next year, as well as one of the more controversial aspects of the events: the criteria to get up on stage. The DNC said the criteria, to be announced in January, will include “both polling and other objective measures that reflect a candidate’s support, such as grassroots fundraising.”

In 2016, candidates like Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley criticized the DNC for the way that the debates were handled, including the scheduling of some of the early matchups on Saturday evenings, when television viewership is traditionally low. The DNC said for the 2020 cycle it will “seek to maximize the viewership of each debate.”

The second debate will be held in July, and after a break in August, there will be one debate per month starting in September. That schedule will continue through the end of the year. Then, the remainder of the debates will be held through April, 2020.

The DNC also said that they will not attempt to segment candidates by how well they are doing in the polls.

If there is a need to hold a debate over multiple nights, there will be a public random selection process to determine which candidates will face off against each other each night. That is different from the way that some of the early Republican presidential debates were handled in the last cycle, as lower-polling candidates were selected for an earlier-in-the-day “undercard” event and major contenders made it to primetime.

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