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Ground Rules

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​Delaware Debates 2010, House of Representatives

Two-thirds of the debate is a moderator question segment, and one-third of the debate is a student question segment.

  • Time limits on statements, answers, rebuttals and responses will be strictly enforced.
  • No participant in the debate (neither candidates nor questioners) shall be allowed to use props or visuals.
  • Candidates will be standing behind individual podiums for the duration of each debate. Moderator and Questioners will be seated at a table. Candidates may not move from their position except upon their arrival and departure. Moderator and Questioners may not rise from their seats during the debates. 
  • Debate participants (both candidates and questioners) may refer to limited notes as prompts.
  • Notes should be placed in front of the speaker. They may be written on letter-sized sheets of paper or index cards that can fit into a letter size business folder or within an ordinary binder up to 2” thick that holds 8-1/2” x 11” pages.
  • Candidates, moderators and questioners may write notes for their own use throughout the program.
  • The moderators may interrupt any candidate if he or she believes the candidate is straying from the subject matter.
  • The candidates shall not be allowed to interrupt one another. It is the moderators’ responsibility to enforce this rule.
  • Surrogates will not be allowed to participate in place of a candidate.
  • Each candidate, or appointed representatives of each candidate, shall have supervised access to the debate site and stage area on the day of the debate by appointment with a representative with UD or Delaware Public Media.
  • The candidate shall not have access to any person during the debate other than the moderators, and, in the case of an emergency, a member of the production crew or staff.


There will be a non-participatory audience in Mitchell Hall. The debate hosts will reserve 10 tickets for each candidate’s invited guests. Candidates should contact Nancy Karibjanian, Director of the Center for Political Communication, to arrange either delivery or pick up of tickets. The remainder of Mitchell Hall will be open to guests, students, and the general public. No campaign materials, literature, hats, stickers, signs or banners are allowed inside Mitchell Hall.

In accordance with debate rules accepted by participating candidates, the live audience is prohibited from applauding or making noise during the debates and may not do anything visible or audible to express support or opposition to any candidate. Violations will prompt immediate removal of audience members from the debate venue.

No audience reaction shots will be broadcast during the debate. Short duration audience pans during the debate will be broadcast only when the moderator is speaking or during transitions in the program.

Broadcast reaction shots of the candidates will be balanced and equal in number and length. When reaction shots are aired, the candidate who is speaking will be included in the shot as well as the reacting candidate.

Debate Format

The Delaware Debates are structured to encourage substantive discussion of important issues.  Moderators will alternate asking questions of the candidates. Candidates are not allowed to walk around during the debate.

Opening and Closing Statements

  • Candidate will be allowed an opportunity to make a one-minute opening statement and a one-minute closing statement.
  • When there are two candidates participating, the order of opening and closing statements shall be determined by a coin toss before the debate program. The candidate who wins the toss gets to determine whether he or she wants to open first. Candidates who open first, close second. Candidates who open second, close first.
  • When there are more than two candidates, the order of opening and closing statements shall be determined by drawing lots (1, 2, 3, etc.) before the debate program. The order for closing statements shall be the reverse of the opening statements.
  •  Closing statements made by candidates shall not include charges or attacks against another candidate that have not been previously raised during the debate. If a candidate violates this rule and the attacked candidate has already completed his or her closing statement, the moderator may offer the attacked candidate the right to make a short rebuttal (30 seconds or less), if time permits, after the closing statement segment has been completed.


There will be two distinct segments to the debate, to give candidates the fullest opportunity to give substantive, thorough discussion to the issues presented. The segments are designed to be fair and even-handed.

Candidate questions with unstructured follow-up (Close to two-thirds of debate)

  • Moderator asks Candidate A a question (up to 30 seconds)
  • Candidate A answers (1:30 minutes)
  • Moderator gives Candidate B the opportunity to rebut
  • Candidate B rebuts (1 minute)
  • Moderator may follow up with Candidate A and/or Candidate B and is to moderate an unstructured discussion (including rebuttals and responses) between both candidates provided that each statement made by a candidate is limited (1 minute). The amount of time allocated to this unstructured discussion period is determined by the moderator but, generally, should not exceed 4 minutes.

Lightning Round – Questions from students to candidates (Close to one-third of debate)

  •  Student asks a question (up to 30 seconds)
  • Candidate A answers (1 minute) and Candidate B answers (1 minute)

  • Student asks a question (up to 30 seconds)
  • Candidate B answers (1 minute) and Candidate A answers (1 minute)

  • Moderators may also ask follow-up questions in the “Lightning Round.”

Rule Enforcement

Candidates and campaigns have a right to ensure that the rules and format of a debate are fair and evenhandedly applied. When rules are established and participants are given full notice of them, it is expected that all participants will strictly adhere to them without exception.


  • Candidates should arrive at Mitchell Hall at the University of Delaware no later than 6:00 pm on the day of the debate.
  • Make-up and hair styling services will be provided.
  • Candidates will be given their own small room to prepare prior to the debate.
  • Water, notepads, and pens will be provided for candidates. Candidates are also welcome to bring their own writing instruments and notes for the program.
Questions or Concerns

Any questions or concerns regarding debate rules or petitions for candidate inclusion should be directed to Nancy Karibjanian, Director, Center for Political Communication, University of Delaware, or Casey Houtz, President and Station Manager, Delaware Public Media.

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  • University of Delaware
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  • Phone: 302-831-7771
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