The Vice Presidential Debate: The Golden Tickets


Ivana Martinez

Location of the 2020 Vice Presidential Debate at the University of Utah on Sept. 25, 2020 (Photo by Ivana Martinez | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ivana Martinez and Kayleigh Silverstein


At 9 a.m. on Sept. 28, all University of Utah students received an email from the Vice Presidential Debate Steering Committee with information on how to enter the drawing for a seat at the debate. 

The email encouraged students to set their alarms to be ready for when the form opens on Sept. 29 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. These seats are only available to U students who will be in Salt Lake on Oct. 7 — the day of the debate. 

Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, said that the form is only open for this nine-hour block because of the parameters created by COVID-19. 

“So, we are pushing it as close to the time as we can, because what you will see in this announcement and why we have to do it so closely is one we have to get the students notified almost immediately. And then in a very short period of time, those students need to be tested for COVID-19,” Perry said.

The uIDs of students who send in the form will then be directed to the Office of Assessment, Evaluation & Research who will randomly select 300 students who are “representative of the University of Utah student body.”

These students will be entered into the final phase of the drawing, which will depend on the number of tickets available for students. The number of tickets is yet to be determined.  

“Those 300 students will receive a congratulatory email that will include a number assignment ranging from 1 to 300. The number assignments are random, being #1 is no better or worse than #300,” the email read. 

These assignments are processed by the Office of Assessment, Evaluation & Research. 

“The uIDs will be sent to the [the Office of Assessment, Evaluation & Research] and they have a mechanism that they can use to make sure that in a random way, that the students that are selected are representative of the Utah student body,” Perry said. 

The final drawing will then be conducted by President Watkins and Swoop through a live stream on one of the U’s social media platforms. 

“Our students are more prone to tune into things on Instagram, so we’ll probably do that platform. But we haven’t set that in stone yet,” said Shawn Wood, the community liaison & communications specialist.

Wood said they are using numbers instead of identifying personal information because of privacy reasons. 

“The University of Utah will not share the names of winning students. Winners may choose to identify themselves as such on social media if they choose to do so,” the email read.

The decision to have a drawing system was made by President Watkins with inspiration from Longwood University who hosted the debate in 2016.

“We talked to [Longwood University] about how they were able to get their students engaged because it was our assessment, they did a nice job of getting the whole campus involved and excited about this event,” Perry said. 

Students who will be attending the debate are required to test negative for COVID-19. The location and time for testing are yet to be determined. 

Testing protocols have been put together by the Cleveland Clinic. Perry said they are hoping to get the final drawing by Oct. 5 to give those students the information to be tested immediately on sites. Students who are tested should receive their results within 12 hours. 

If a student tests positive for COVID-19 or is not able to attend the debate, they are not able to transfer or sell their ticket to anyone else. 

“These cannot be put up for sale, they cannot be transferred to anyone else. This is for the students to enter their interest in and receive this ticket and if a student is not able to attend, we will go to the next randomly selected student,” Perry said. 

During this time, students and faculty will not be allowed on campus. However, students living on campus will have access to buildings such as the Peterson Heritage Center.  

“This is a major event in our democratic process and the fact that some of our students are going to be able to have a front-row seat at the event and the ability to participate, even virtually and other events on campus is a significant thing,” Perry said. 


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