Coronavirus: Democrats consider postponing national convention

Coronavirus: Democrats consider postponing national convention

Key members of both US political parties are considering postponing their national conventions to accommodate social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Democratic convention this year is scheduled for 13-16 July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Republican convention is scheduled for 24-27 August in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

During presidential election cycles, the parties choose which primary candidate will become its representative in the race for the nation’s highest office. These events typically draw thousands of people from every state in the union to a central location somewhere in the continental US. 

Speaking with Fox News, US Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a top ally to former Vice President Joe Biden, said he wasn’t “sure if we’re going to have a convention.”

“I think both parties are very likely, I hope, to agree on postponing the convention or doing something that won’t bring thousands of people together to kill each other ultimately with Covid-19,” Mr Cleaver said. 

Mr Biden didn’t give a strong indication one way or the other as to his position on cancelling or postponing the Democratic convention during an interview on MSNBC. 

“It’s hard to envision [holding the convention].We ought to be able – we were able to do it in the middle of the Civil War and all the way through to World War III – have Democratic and Republican conventions and primaries and elections and still have public safety,” Mr Biden said. “But the fact is it may have to be different.” 

Mr Biden’s primary rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has remained in the race and calls for another debate before the convention. Both Mr Sanders and Mr Biden have halted physical campaign events, opting instead for online streaming events. Mr Biden has held several town halls, and Mr Sanders has also held town halls and interviews with health professionals. 

Earlier in the race, Mr Biden’s campaign faced criticism for a tweet encouraging voters without symptoms to vote in the 17 March primaries. Mr Biden’s press senior campaign advisor Symone Sanders also went on television and claimed the US Centers for Disease Control that the primaries had been cleared as “safe.”

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez was also attacked for encouraging voters to participate in the 17 March primaries, well after the first coronavirus cases in the US had been discovered.

President Donald Trump told Fox News there was “no way” he’d cancel the convention.

The Democratic National Convention Twitter account last tweeted an update about the convention on 14 March in which the account confirmed the party still intended to hold the convention.

A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Convention Committee said the situation was “very fluid” and said the committee would keep the public abreast of its decisions, though noted the convention was still three months away. 

Just because the conventions happen, however, doesn’t mean people will necessarily risk their health and worsening the pandemic by attending.

The conventions are not the only electoral landmarks at risk of disruption from the coronavirus; discussion has already begun over which adjustments may need implemented to ensure the general election in November continues without endangering millions of Americans.

Though Mr Biden said that there was “no rationale for eliminating or delaying the election,” he has conceded that adjustments to how voting occurs may be necessary. “Drive-through” voting, mail in voting and digital voting were all tossed around as potential measures, and several were proposed to be included in the coronavirus stimulus package but were ultimately left out. 

Mr Trump balked at the idea of digital voting,same day registration and vote by mail, saying the stimulus bill contained measures to allow “levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

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