This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET's coverage of the voting in November and its aftermath.
Get ready for a night of political firsts. Tonight's debate will be the first and only one between the two vice presidential candidates, Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, herself the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent on a major party ticket. It's also the first debate since President Donald Trump revealed he tested positive for COVID-19 last week. After returning from the hospital Monday evening, Trump tweeted that he was "looking forward" to debating Democratic nominee Joe Biden in their next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 15. Meanwhile tonight's vice presidential debate will proceed despite Pence's exposure to a White House in which multiple staffers have tested positive.
When is the vice presidential debate?
The VP debate between Pence and Harris is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The debate will run for 90 minutes and comprise nine 10-minute segments with no commercial breaks. Susan Page, USA Today's Washington bureau chief, will moderate.
How will the VP debate account for coronavirus?
In previous years, two or three people shared moderator duties for the debates. With the coronavirus pandemic this year, there will be a single moderator at each debate to reduce the number of people in the room.
Pence, Harris and the moderator will sit roughly 12 feet apart to maintain social distancing. The two candidates will be separated by a plexiglass barrier, a concession to the COVID-19 outbreak at the White House requested by the Biden-Harris team and granted by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The barrier was opposed by the Trump-Pence campaign.
Such a barrier was not used during the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden. Both Pence and Harris have so far tested negative for the virus and neither will wear masks on the debate stage.
The debate topics are chosen by Page and unlike the first presidential debate, will not be disclosed ahead of time. In addition to the coronavirus pandemic that has infected 7.4 million Americans, they could include racial unrest, the struggling economy and the Supreme Court, a topic that has risen in urgency following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat.
How can I watch the debate on TV or online?
The VP debate will be shown live on every major network and cable news channel, including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and C-SPAN. You'll also be able to stream the debate live on YouTube via CBS News and other services like C-SPAN. (Editor's note: CBS News is owned by ViacomCBS, which also publishes CNET.) The debate will also be streamed through Twitter's US Election hub in the Explore tab.
What is the full debate schedule?
Two more presidential debates between Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden are planned after the vice presidential debate.
Vice presidential debate
- Date: Wednesday, Oct. 7
- Location: University of Utah in Salt Lake City
- Time: 9-10:30 p.m. ET (6-7:30 p.m. PT)
- Moderator: Susan Page, USA Today Washington bureau chief
Second presidential debate
- Date: Thursday, Oct. 15
- Location: Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami
- Time: 9-10:30 p.m. ET (6-7:30 p.m. PT)
- Moderator: Steve Scully, political editor of C-SPAN
Third presidential debate
- Date: Thursday, Oct. 22
- Location: Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee
- Time: 9-10:30 p.m. ET (6-7:30 p.m. PT)
- Moderator: Kristen Welker, NBC News White House correspondent
How can I watch the vice presidential debate without cable?
If you don't have a cable or satellite TV subscription, you can watch the debate with a live-TV streaming service. All of the services listed below carry the major networks and cable news channels. If you want to watch the debate on a particular local network, you can check if each service carries it in your area with the links below.
If you live in an area with good reception, you can watch the debate on ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC for free on over-the-air broadcast channels just by attaching an affordable (under $30) indoor antenna to nearly any TV.
It's mentioned above, but to reiterate here: If you have a broadband connection, you can watch the full debate live on YouTube and many news sites. We're linking here to the coverage from our sister site, CBSN. (You can also watch at CBSNews.com, and on the CBSN app on various smart TV and mobile app platforms.)
Sling TV's $30-a-month Blue plan includes NBC and Fox but none of its plans include ABC or CBS. The Blue plan also includes popular cable news channels such as CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Enter your address here to see which local channels are available where you live.
Hulu with Live TV costs $55 a month and includes the four major networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- along with popular cable news channels including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Click the "View channels in your area" link on its welcome page to see which local channels are offered in your ZIP code.
AT&T Now's basic $55-a-month Plus package includes the four major networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- along with popular cable news channels including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels are available where you live.
YouTube TV costs $65 a month and includes the four major networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- along with popular cable news channels including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks are available in your area.
FuboTV costs $65 a month and includes the four major networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- along with popular cable news channels including Fox News and MSNBC but not CNN. Click here to see which local channels you get.
All of the live TV streaming services above offer free trials, allow you to cancel anytime and require a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our massive streaming services guide.
What else should I know about the 2020 election?
Beyond what's sure to be an extraordinary debate cycle, the election on Tuesday, Nov. 3 will be marked by disinformation from numerous sources both before and after Election Day. Here are the facts.
Vote-by-mail: There has been no evidence of coordinated vote-by-mail fraud, with fewer than 150 criminal convictions for the crime over the last 20 years. The president has voted by mail through his home state of Florida, and Republican politicians and Trump's family members, including Donald Trump Jr., have recorded public service announcements encouraging Republicans to vote by mail.
Different states have different methods of verification, from a simple requirement of a signature to having a witness present. Here's how to find vote-by-mail information for your state.
And no, you can't vote by text in US federal or state elections.
Read more: How to commit mail-in voting fraud (It's nearly impossible)
Absentee ballot: Absentee ballot is now being used interchangeably with the term "vote by mail" now that at least 35 states have changed their policies to make it easier for anyone to apply in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Previously, many states only allowed you to get an absentee ballot if you were deployed with the US armed forces, would be out of town on Election Day or ill.
Election results: Americans are used to getting results on election day, but this year could be different. Widespread use of mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus may mean a final count gets pushed out several days or even weeks as officials process the backlog of votes.
QAnon: QAnon is a conspiracy theory that falsely claims that Trump is secretly fighting Democratic elites who run a Satanic child sex-trafficking ring. Trump supporters and Congressional candidates have professed to be believers, despite a lack of any evidence. Earlier this month, 17 Republican congressmen voted against a bipartisan resolution condemning QAnon.
More 2020 election information
- How vote by mail works in all 50 states this 2020 presidential election
- Mail-in voting versus absentee voting: Differences to know before Election Day
- Election security officials find no evidence of coordinated fraud with mail-in ballots
- Register to vote: How to find out if you're already registered and sign up for the first time
- Voting in 2020 election: What you need to know about voting by mail, polling places, online ballots
- Facebook intensifies its crackdown on QAnon conspiracy theory
- Twitter cracks down on thousands of QAnon accounts
- QAnon: The conspiracy theory that's sparked Reddit bans, explained