Democratic convention delegates were told Wednesday not to come to Milwaukee later this summer, though the city will “anchor” four nights of programming capped by Joe Biden traveling to the battleground state to accept the presidential nomination.
The COVID-19 pandemic scrambled convention plans for both parties’ conventions in August.
Republicans are still finalizing plans — amid an uptick of COVID-19 cases in Florida — but Illinois delegates to the Republican Convention say they’re all in for attending any variation of an in-person nominating event in the Sunshine State.
President Donald Trump moved most of the convention activities to Jacksonville, Florida, after not getting a full green light from local officials in Charlotte, North Carolina, that he could pack convention venues.
The Democratic National Committee announced on Wednesday that in the midst of the pandemic the decision has been made that “state delegations should not plan to travel to Milwaukee and should plan to conduct their official convention business remotely.”
DNC Rules have recently been changed to allow delegates to cast their votes remotely. Standing committees, including those working on the party platform, will meet remotely at the end of July.
For most Americans, conventions are seen through the prism of nightly high profile speeches and entertainment on television or other platforms. The DNC is planning four nights of programming from Aug. 17-20. The party is also planning on using other “satellite” cities to bring in speakers and related activities.
Democratic Party of Illinois Chairman Mike Madigan on Wednesday said state delegates are ready to participate in the new convention format to elect Biden the next president. And he noted the stark contrast between the Democratic and Republican convention approaches.
“We appreciate the difficult decisions the DNC has made regarding the convention in Milwaukee,” Madigan said in a statement. “Unlike Trump and the GOP, we believe protecting public health and safety is paramount.”
Prior to Wednesday’s decision by the Democratic National Committee to hold the convention virtually, the Democratic Party of Illinois also polled its 181 delegates informally and “got sort of mixed reactions” about whether they were comfortable traveling and attending a convention, according to state party spokeswoman Maura Possley.
“There were folks who wanted virtual options. Some people who wanted to still attend, but I would say everyone has the same concerns either way,” Possley said. “To do it in a way that follows the safety public health guidelines.”
“Leadership means being able to adapt to any situation,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez in a statement. “That’s exactly what we’ve done with our convention. Unlike this president, Joe Biden and Democrats are committed to protecting the health and safety of the American people. I couldn’t be prouder of the way our team has organized and mobilized to get out the vote and ensure a successful convention anchored in Wisconsin, and I’m grateful for the extraordinary leadership of our partners in the city of Milwaukee. Donald Trump’s days in the Oval Office are numbered.”
The DNC decision impacts hotels around O’Hare Airport and Lake County that were going to be housing state delegations.
The GOP’s resounding yes came from an informal survey sent to delegates about whether they’d feel safe traveling and attending a convention during a pandemic, no matter where it’s held.
“At this point from the survey we’ve had no one say that they would not go because of any changes,” said Illinois Republican Party Executive Director Derek Murphy.
The RNC earlier in June announced will have convention-related business meetings in Charlotte Aug. 21-24. After that, the convention moves to Jacksonville Aug. 25- 27.
Republican are still scrambling to complete plans for the convention, after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper expressed health concerns over the convention in Charlotte.
While the convention is months away, Florida is currently experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases after the state lifted restrictions and began reopening key parts of its economy. According to the Associated Press, Florida’s new cases skyrocketed by 25% on Wednesday from a previous record set last week.
Florida’s previous one-day record for confirmed cases was 1,601 set in Mid-May. That has gone up every day since June 12 and the seven-day positivity rate has jumped from 3.8% to 13%,” the AP reported.
The Illinois GOP party survey asked delegates several variations of questions, including whether they would still want to go if they couldn’t bring a guest and whether they would still want to go if their access was limited to convention centers with no major events. The overwhelming answer: It didn’t matter.
Although the Illinois Republican Party says it has not yet been given specifics about the final plans, Murphy said the party will remind delegates of some safety precautions.
“We as a party are encouraging everyone to have hand sanitizer and masks, at a bare minimum,” Murphy said.
‘Deliver a convention that poses no unnecessary risk to public health’
The Democratic shift is a complete 180 from the efforts of Trump, who held an in-person rally in Tulsa last weekend.
Democratic convention organizers also announced the hiring of two epidemiologists and infectious disease experts to help advise efforts to protect the health and safety of convention-goers. Planners are also changing the convention’s campus, with proceedings moved from Fiserv Forum to the Wisconsin Center, in downtown Milwaukee.
There will also be no “large-scale events,” such as a media welcome reception for journalists and delegates.
“ In keeping with the commitment to deliver a convention that poses no unnecessary risk to public health, convention organizers will no longer proceed with hosting these in-person parties,” organizers said.