Commission Chooses Sites for 2004 Presidential Debates

College campuses in Florida, Missouri and Arizona will host presidential debates among the major candidates in the 2004 general election, the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates (search) announced Thursday.

The first debate will take place Sept. 30, 2004 at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., followed by a second meeting Oct. 8 at Washington University in St. Louis. The final debate is scheduled for Oct. 13 at Arizona State University in Tempe.

A debate among the major party vice presidential candidates will be held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland Oct. 5.

All debates will be televised nationally starting at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

Finalists were chosen from 14 formal proposals submitted to the commission in March. The commission also selected two backup sites -- Rochester Institute of Technology (search) in Rochester, N.Y., and the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.

Founded in 1988 by the Democratic and Republican parties, the commission only allows candidates with at least 15 percent support in national polls to participate in its debates.

Minor-party candidates have long complained that the rule unfairly excludes them, but the commission says it wants to limit debates to those who have legitimate chances to win the election. The commission excluded Green Party (search) nominee Ralph Nader from the 2000 debates but allowed Reform Party (search) candidate Ross Perot to participate in 1992.

Several lawsuits challenging the commission's rules have been rejected in court.