Freedom Writer |
March 1996 |
Organizing a candidates' forum
By Kathy Frasca
With 1996 promising to be a big election year, opportunities to
scrutinize candidates and their agendas should be presented to the
public. Candidate forums offer voters and the media the chance to meet
and question those who are running for local nonpartisan offices. In
order to attract a large audience, you or your group can team up with
and co-sponsor the event with other organizations such as the League
of Women Voters, the PTA or the Chamber of Commerce. Some basic
guidelines for holding a successful forum are:
Issue press releases to the media and send fliers to different
organizations publicizing the event. Advise candidates that their
names will be advertised on the publications as having been invited to
- Each candidate is sent a written invitation (certified mail)
notifying him/her of the date, time, location, ground rules and the
program format. Request the candidate to respond by a definite
- Each candidate will be given three minutes for an opening
statement and two minutes to make a closing statement. A timer should
signal the candidate with timing cards when there are 30 seconds
remaining and also when time has expired.
- Questions from the audience will be submitted in a written format.
The questions will be screened in order to avoid duplication and then
presented by the moderator. All candidates will have one minute to
respond to each question.
- In order to keep the audience's attention, the forum should last
no longer than 1.5 hours.
- In order to present a fair and impartial exchange, no campaign
material should be distributed at the forum.
- Candidates should appear themselves — no substitutes should be
© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.