The Commission on Presidential Debates on Thursday rejected a request from the Trump campaign to either add another debate or to move up the first contest, which is set for Sept. 29.
The commission wrote to Trump’s private attorney Rudy Giuliani that the existing schedule of three debates between the president and preumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is set, but the body might considering adding a fourth if both sides agree.
“If the candidates were to agree that they wished to add to that schedule, the Commission would consider that request but remains committed to the schedule of debates it has planned as reflected in the attached release,” the commission wrote in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
Trump on Wednesday called for the first presidential debate to be moved up because it’s scheduled 35 days before the election and said early voting in many states means many Americans will cast ballots before the face-to-face contests between the two candidates even begin.
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“The one problem I have, the debate’s very late. It’s at the end of September and a lot of ballots will already be cast by that time,” Trump said in a “Fox & Friends” interview. “Why are they putting the first debate so late? The first debate should be before the first – at least before the first ballots go out. And they have it a month later, almost a month later. It’s ridiculous.”
The key swing state of Michigan, for example, allows residents to submit ballots 45 days before the election. Virginians can also vote in-person at their local registrar’s office at that time, and in Minnesota, another swing state, early voting begins Sept. 18.
Trump also addressed the number of debates, of which there are others scheduled on Oct. 15 and 22. “I wouldn’t mind more,” Trump said, but added, “What’s more important to me is the first debate be moved up so that when people are putting in their first ballot they’re gonna know.”
But the commission said no go.
“There is a difference between ballots having been issued by a state and those ballots having been cast by voters, who are under no compulsion to return their ballots before the debates,” the commission said. “While more people will likely vote by mail in 2020, the debate schedule has been and will be highly publicized. Any voter who wishes to watch one or more debates before voting will be well aware of that opportunity.”