May 28, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Dems plan "virtual roll call" to nominate Biden weeks before Chicago convention

Man looking at cellphone

A person watches a broadcast of the Democratic National Convention on August 20, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

The Democratic National Committee is planning to conduct one of its convention's signature moments — when each state announces its nominee for president — weeks before its convention in Chicago in mid-August.

Why it matters: The DNC's unusual step to have a "virtual roll call" is a response to the political uncertainty created by an Ohio deadline (Aug. 7) for when a candidate's name needs to be submitted for that state's ballot.

  • As a practical matter, the early roll call will make Biden his party's formal nominee weeks before Democrats gather in person for their convention on Aug. 19.
  • As a political matter, it's unlikely to change Democrats' plan to nominate Biden for a rematch against former President Trump in November.
  • But symbolically, it will turn one of the convention's most memorable traditions into an empty ritual.

Driving the news: Ohio Republicans couldn't guarantee they'd resolve the ballot issue before the state's GOP-controlled legislature leaves for the summer.

  • Today, Democrats moved to avoid the uncertainty by nominating Biden before Aug. 7, but didn't specify when.

What they're saying: "Joe Biden will be on the ballot in Ohio and all 50 states, and Ohio Republicans agree," DNC chair Jaime Harrison said in a statement.

  • "Through a virtual roll call, we will ensure that Republicans can't chip away at our democracy through incompetence or partisan tricks and that Ohioans can exercise their right to vote for the presidential candidate of their choice."

Zoom out: Up to the early 1950s, party conventions were fierce and fraught affairs, with a party's nominee anything but certain. But that has changed in the modern, television era.

  • The last time a nominee didn't win on the first ballot was in 1952, when it took then-Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson three rounds to become his party's nominee. For Republicans, it was 1948.
  • As conventions became more scripted for TV, conventions became more like coronations.
  • Both parties used them to highlight the personal biographies of their presidential nominees, mend any internal party riffs and introduce their vice presidential nominees to the broader public.

Zoom in: Covid-19 forced both parties to hold virtual conventions in 2020, with Democrats using the roll call to showcase the issues and themes they wanted to run on.

  • This year, the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee will vote on June 4 on a resolution to allow for virtual party proceedings.
  • The full DNC then would need to approve that resolution and set a date for the virtual proceeding.
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