Mar 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: DNC chair says he's "not contemplating" an online convention

In an interview with "Axios on HBO," Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez flatly denied that he was even entertaining the idea of canceling July's Democratic convention in Milwaukee and replacing it with an online convention due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Driving the news: In the interview, which was taped Monday in Florida and will air Sunday night at 6pm ET/PT, I asked Perez whether he would cancel the Democratic convention given that major companies are canceling events across the country because of the virus. "No," Perez replied.

  • "We are working with our state and local partners, and I'm confident that we work a plan that will enable us to have our convention," he said.
  • He added that the DNC was in touch with local, state and federal public health officials and monitoring the situation "every single day."

I asked Perez whether, if he had to, the DNC could pull off an online convention — where delegates would have to vote remotely. Perez indicated that an online convention wasn't something he was contemplating.

  • "We'd have to change the rules," he replied. "We're not contemplating rule changes."
  • Perez said he was very confident "in the competence of our team."

Between the lines: Section 11 of the DNC's charter and bylaws states that "voting by proxy shall not be permitted at the National Convention." Hence Perez's comment about an online convention requiring rules changes.

Why this matters: Public health officials are advising elderly people to stay at home as much as possible and to avoid crowds. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders canceled rallies this week out of concern for public safety.

So it's not crazy to think this year's political conventions — where thousands of politicians, activists and journalists mingle in close quarters — would be at risk of cancellation.

  • If the DNC is forced to cancel a physical gathering of delegates, an online vote may be the only workable solution.
  • In that case, the DNC — which has suffered major problems with technology and information security — would have to oversee a secure and seamless digital convention with the pressure of American citizens and America's foreign adversaries bearing down on them.

Go deeper

Video explainer: How contested conventions work

Democrats are potentially headed into a potentially contested convention this summer. Below is a brief "Axios on HBO" video explainer with Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings Institution on how it would go down.

DNC chair urges states to expand voting options amid coronavirus outbreak

Tom Perez. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez on Tuesday advised states to expand mail-in and early-voting options amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, The Hill reports.

Where it stands: The Trump administration implored people not to gather in groups greater than 10, and lawmakers nationwide are encouraging citizens to remain in their homes to prevent contracting or spreading COVID-19. Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana and Puerto Rico have pushed back their originally scheduled primary dates, as Florida, Illinois and Arizona move forward as planned with Tuesday's primaries.

Bloomberg: "I don't think I can win" without a contested convention

Mike Bloomberg on Super Tuesday at El Pub Restaurant restaurant in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

MIAMI, Fla. — Mike Bloomberg told reporters Tuesday that he has "no intention of dropping out" of the presidential race despite calls for Democratic moderates to coalesce around Joe Biden, adding that his path to the nomination depends on a contested convention.

Why it matters: Today's Super Tuesday contests are the first with Bloomberg's name on the ballot — marking the first measure of whether he has a real shot at the Democratic nomination.