May 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Democrats move to consider virtual options for summer convention

The 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Democrats are now acknowledging that the coronavirus may make it impossible to conduct the in-person convention in August that they'd envisioned, and they're taking steps to allow virtual or socially distanced elements.

Driving the news: The Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee meets Tuesday to consider a resolution giving the convention team "maximum flexibility to plan a safe event that guarantees every delegate can accomplish their official business without putting their own health at risk," per a DNC memo.

  • The resolution says the convention team "has the authority to make the necessary changes to the format, size, date or other aspects in order to conduct a safe convention."
  • Convention delegates will be allowed to participate either "in person or by means that allow for appropriate social distancing."
  • If the committee approves the resolution, it will then be voted on by all DNC members.

Why it matters: The convention already has been pushed from July to August because of the coronavirus.

  • Democratic officials involved in the convention planning acknowledge they don't know what the virus will look like by August, how many people can gather safely and what travel restrictions could keep folks from attending — all things they're considering in their contingency planning.
  • The goal, per a source familiar, is to allow for the convention committee to make last-minute changes to adjust for attendee size closer to the dates.

What they're saying: "During this critical time, when the scope and scale of the pandemic and its impact in August remain unknown, convention planners are exploring a range of contingency options to ensure all delegates will be able to cast ballots and accomplish their business, regardless of their ability to travel and participate in person," says the DNC memo.

  • They're also consulting with various health experts at the federal, state and local levels about how many people can gather safely in Milwaukee.
  • "Protecting the health and well-being of our host community in Wisconsin and everyone involved with the convention will drive every decision convention planners make as they put plans in place for August," the Democrats' memo says.

Don't forget: The Republican National Committee recently announced it's added a senior adviser for health and safety planning to its team for the party's summer convention and still plans to host it as an in-person event.

Between the lines: Conventions are supposed to be about generating enthusiasm for the party's base and throwing a celebration for the new nominee, but the pandemic is hardly grounds for a celebratory tone — and Democrats and Republicans must consider how to meet the moment in a more subdued way.

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