Move the Democratic Convention From Charlotte? Not Likely

May 11, 2012 6:18am

The Internet-based protest movement calling for Democrats to move their summer convention from North Carolina appears to be a lost cause.

“The convention is staying in Charlotte,” Democratic National Convention Committee spokeswoman Joanne Peters said an email.

North Carolina voters Tuesday approved a ballot referendum known as Amendment One, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions in the Tar Heel state, becoming the 30th state to adopt such a measure.

Gay Marriage USA, an advocacy group based in New York, has since launched a petition calling on the DNCC to “move the convention out of North Carolina.”

“On May 8th, the people of North Carolina voted in support of Amendment One, a constitutional amendment that discriminates against LGBT people, couples & their families,” reads the petition posted on change.org. “In protest, the Democratic National Convention Committee should MOVE its convention (September 2012) to a state that upholds values of equality & liberty, and which treats ALL citizens equally.”

The petition has so far gathered more than 28,000 signatures.

The Democrats’ reasoning extends beyond general-election strategy: North Carolina will be a crucial swing state in the fall and moving it so close to the Labor Day start date is impractical.  Conventions are huge undertakings, costing parties millions of dollars and taking months of planning.

“It’s completely impractical to move the convention; there’s absolutely no way you could do it,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “Too much planning has gone into it. You couldn’t find another place where you could make all the arrangements at this time.  Practically speaking, it’s at total nonstarter.”

In addition to the financial losses incurred by the convention committee and the Democratic party, the city of Charlotte would be dealt a big financial blow if the convention were moved, as the event will likely have a huge, positive, economic impact on the city. In 2008 the Democratic National Convention brought an estimated economic benefit of $226 million to the Denver area, according to a report released by then Denver Mayor, now Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper.

Furthermore, a majority of voters in Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located, voted against the ban on same-sex marriage.

About 54 percent of the vote in Mecklenburg was against Amendment One, while about 46 percent of the voting population supported it, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

“You’re hurting an area that, in fact, also voted against the amendment,” Sabato said.

Thirty states have adopted constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage, including several blue states such as California and Maine. This means that from a geographical perspective, Democrats would be somewhat limited in where to move their convention, even if they could, presuming they would not want to choose another location with such a ban.

Same-sex marriage is legal in six states, plus the District of Columbia. Within that small group there are two swing states, Iowa and New Hampshire.

There is a historical precedent for moving conventions. In 1972 the GOP moved their convention from San Diego to Miami Beach after a memo surfaced from a lobbyist at the International Telephone and Telegraph Corp., suggesting that the company pledge money to the bid in return for the U.S. Justice Department settling an antitrust case against the company.

However, the GOP was able to move their convention to Miami Beach because the Democrats were already hosting their convention there, meaning that the infrastructure was already in place for Republicans.

Republicans are hosting their convention in Tampa, Florida this year. Florida is one of the 30 states with a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

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