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Presidential debate: Teenage girls campaign for woman moderator in 2012

Three female high school students have launched an online petition drive to convince the Commission on Presidential Debates to name a female moderator for one of this year's televised presidential debates.

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For 20 years, presidential debates have muted the voice of the majority of American voters: women.

Since 1992, no female journalist has served as the moderator of a presidential debate. But this fall, change might be coming – thanks to three high school students.

Three classmates at Montclair High School in Montclair, N.J -- Emma Axelrod, Elena Tsemberis, and Sammi Siegel – are mounting an online campaign that calls for a female moderator in this year’s presidential debates between President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The petition, posted on, has garnered more than 116,000 signatures.

It has even caught the attention of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), the organization tasked with selecting the debate moderators.

“If women make up 50 percent of the population, why in the last 20 years have they made up 0 percent of this very powerful role?” said Ms. Axelrod in an interview. “It’s really inexplicable.”

The last woman to moderate a presidential debate was ABC NewsCarole Simpson in 1992, when Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ross Perot squared off. PBS’ Gwen Ifill moderated the vice-presidential debate in 2004, between Dick Cheney and John Edwards, and in 2008, between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. All other presidential debates have featured male moderators.


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