The League of Women Voters has a long history with candidate debates.  Between 1960 and 1984, the League sponsored every presidential and vice presidential candidate debate.  The League may no longer sponsor these televised debates, but state and local Leagues across the country continue to sponsor candidate debates at the state and local levels, just as they always have.

Candidate debates are one of the only opportunities voters have to listen to candidates offer more than just a brief sound bite.  Debates provide an opportunity to hear what candidates are saying and to form your own opinions of the candidates – based on your own observations.  They also provide an opportunity to become engaged in the political process by using critical and analytical abilities in examining the candidates.

Bringing your friends, colleagues, family and acquaintances together to watch a debate is an opportunity to start a dialogue in your community about the issues that affect your lives. These activities contribute to building a community where residents are engaged in actively following and contributing to the political process. A debate watching party can also be a fun chance to find out how your views compare with those of your guests and to get a range of perspectives on the issues.

Reasons to host a debate watching party during this election cycle:

  • You and your guests are going to have a good time;
  • This is an excellent way to get people excited about voting in the 2004 elections;
  • It offers an opportunity to educate people about the candidates’ stances on the issues;
  • A debate party offers an opportunity to create visibility for your League if you do a press release and/or Op Ed relating the debate to current voter participation or League efforts in your community; and
  • Your gathering offers an opportunity to talk about your League’s current activities.

This book provides a comprehensive list of materials to help make your Debate Watching Party fun and sucessful; however some of the materials may be more relevant to your efforts than others.  Feel free to pick and choose the ones that will be most helpful to you.  Please use this book in conjunction with our publication Debate Watching 101.

The presidential debate schedule: October 3, October 16 and October 22. The vice presidential debate will be on October 11. You can find information on debates between other federal, state and local candidates from the League of Women Voters in your community and many of them are listed on

Candidate debates are one of the few times when you can see candidates interacting with one another and speaking for more than just a brief sound bite worth of time. Please take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about the candidates and engage with others in your community to talk about the important issues that will be impacted by the results of your elections.