Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

For Immediate Release

Press Release

For Presidential Town Hall Debate, Public Will Vote On Questions At Cross-Partisan Open Debate Coalition’s

After Meetings With Right-Left-Tech Coalition, ABC, CNN Agree to Receive Top 30 Bottom-Up Questions For Consideration In Debate

Immediately after the first presidential debate, the cross-partisan Open Debate Coalition is announcing that the public will submit and vote on questions at -- and ABC and CNN have agreed to receive the most popular 30 questions for consideration in the October 9 presidential town hall debate.

For the first time, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has mandated that moderators of the town hall debate ask questions with input from the internet -- not just questions from voters in the physical room. In 2008, President Obama and Senator McCain endorsed the coalition’s call for bottom-up questions, but the CPD did not incorporate the idea until this year.

"The commission was watching closely as the Open Debate Coalition tested out their innovative bottom-up question submission and voting platform in the primaries this year, and we were impressed with the results,” said Mike McCurry, Co-Chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, “This year's presidential debate moderators will have a rich pool of voter-submitted questions they can draw on that carry greater weight because they are backed by votes from the American people."

“After coalition meetings with ABC and CNN, the networks have agreed to receive the top 30 questions submitted and voted on by the public at for consideration in the portion of the town hall debate featuring questions from the internet,” said Lilia Tamm Dixon, Open Debate Coalition Director. “This coalition effort is a first-of-its-kind attempt to ensure moderators can ask questions that are not just submitted by the public, but voted on by the public to truly represent what Republican, Democratic, and Independent families are discussing around their dinner tables. Open Debates are the future.”

Top ABC and CNN debate producers had meetings recently with Open Debate Coalition Director Lilia Tamm Dixon, Americans For Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, and Progressive Change Campaign Committee Co-Founder Adam Green -- leading to their agreement. This followed over a year of engagement between the coalition and CPD in advance of the historic announcement that town hall moderators must ask questions with input from the internet. Question submission and voting is now open at and coalition organizations will ask their supporters to participate.

The Open Debate Coalition has successfully held open debates in the 2013 special election for Congress in Massachusetts and in the 2016 U.S. Senate debate in Florida.  Between the two open debates, more than 2,500 questions were submitted and over 450,000 votes were cast. The Florida debate received over half a million views and was aired on C-SPAN several times. The AP reported, “Both candidates said they enjoyed the format…saying they were more substantive than a typical debate would have been.”

“There is a mutual frustration with presidential debate questions dominated by a handful of television personalities rather than average voters,” said Grover Norquist, Founder of Americans for Tax Reform. “Our coalition meetings with ABC and CNN have been constructive, and we’re eager to see both candidates answer questions that are submitted and voted on by the public in a nationally-televised presidential debate. We anticipate many more Open Debates in the future -- up and down the ballot.”

“Bottom-up participation isn’t just about choosing topics. It’s about allowing the public to truly frame the questions in a way that addresses what voters are actually asking at their kitchen tables,” said Adam Green, Co-Founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “We are very hopeful that ABC and CNN will maximize this opportunity. They seem genuinely excited to be leaders in debate innovation, and we hope to make Open Debates the new norm for debates in American politics.”

"A more open democracy is always a better one,” said Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and health-and-wellness startup Thrive Global. “In this critical election year, it is imperative that the questions on the minds of voters are asked and answered. ABC and CNN deserve kudos for embracing this participatory model."

"As technology changes, questions posed by moderators to candidates should reflect bottom-up participation from the public -- reinforced by strong follow-up questions and fact checking to ensure the public's questions are answered," said Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist. "I'm proud to be a founding member of the Open Debate Coalition because bottom-up questions and trustworthy moderation that represents the will of the people is an idea whose time has come."

The Open Debate Coalition was formed during the 2008 election cycle. It includes: Americans for Tax Reform, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, FreedomWorks, NARAL, Faith & Freedom Coalition Founder Ralph Reed, the National Organization for Women, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Color Of Change, Numbers USA, Presente,, Arianna Huffington, former Romney senior aide Mindy Finn, craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Electronic Frontier Foundation President Cindy Cohn, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and many more. (See full list of coalition members below.)

"We've seen bottom-up online energy thrust new ideas like debt-free college into the national spotlight and 2016 presidential campaign," said Heather McGhee, President of Demos Action, the action arm of think tank Demos. "This same ethos would be a breath of fresh air for our political debates and a major step forward for democratic participation."

"At Define American, we believe that in order to change politics, we first have to change culture. For years, conversations about immigrants have been held without including immigrant families themselves, and this exciting effort will change that,” said Jose Antonio Vargas, Founder & CEO of Define American. “This will be a rare opportunity to have candidates for the most critical position in the world respond directly to those they’ll represent: the increasingly diverse American public.”

"NumbersUSA will reach out to the seven million Americans in our network, urging them to participate in this innovative bottom-up process to ensure that moderators can engage on topics such as immigration and border security in a way that educates voters and truly addresses their questions," said Roy Beck, Executive Director of NumbersUSA.


Open Debate Coalition is the sponsor of the project—bringing together the PCCC, Americans for Tax Reform, and dozens of influential left, right, and Silicon Valley coalition members to give the public a voice in the second debate, which will feature questions from the internet.

Australian Progressives Hail 'Greenslide' Amid Big Left Wins and Morrison's Ouster

"People have backed the Greens in record numbers and delivered a massive mandate for action on climate and inequality," said party leader Adam Bandt.

Brett Wilkins ·

Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage

Democrats urge the FTC to probe "any unfair or unsustainable practices, like deceptive marketing, price gouging, and stock buybacks, that may be weakening our nutritional formula supply."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Arbitrary, Racist, and Unfair': Judge Blocks Biden From Ending Title 42

"Only the coyotes profiteering off of people seeking protection have reason to celebrate this ill-reasoned ruling," said one migrant rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·

'This Is a War' for Democratic Party's Future, Says Sanders of AIPAC's Super PAC

"They are doing everything they can to destroy the progressive movement in this country," said the senator.

Julia Conley ·

Ginni Thomas Pressed Arizona Lawmakers to Reverse Biden's 2020 Win: Report

"Clarence Thomas' continued service on the Supreme Court is a scandalous and appalling breach of judicial ethics," said one observer. "He is implementing the exact same theories that his wife used to try to steal the 2020 election for Trump."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo