Democrats announce convention schedule, party officers for 2020 gathering transformed by coronavirus

The Democratic National Convention is scheduled for Aug. 17-20.

July 29, 2020, 7:45 PM

Democrats, who are poised to formally nominate presumptive nominee Joe Biden in a few short weeks, announced on Wednesday evening a preliminary schedule for the four days of the national convention.

Biden is slated to deliver his acceptance speech from Milwaukee on Thursday, the final night of the convention, which is scheduled for Aug. 17-20.

His vice presidential nominee, who is expected to be announced before the gathering, will be nominated on Wednesday, before addressing party supporters from a still-to-be announced location.

A keynote address is set for Tuesday, the same night presidential candidate nominating and seconding speeches are set to take place, and delegates -- who won't be in the convention hall after being told not to travel to Milwaukee -- will nominate Biden by a roll call vote.

The party's mostly virtual festivities will kick off on Monday with opening ceremonies and a selection of speakers, who will be announced at a later date. The results of votes on reports from each of the three standing committees to the convention -- rules, platform and credentials -- will also be announced on Monday, including the vote on the party's platform.

Party officials decided to move the vote on the ballot to a remote process over a period of two weeks prior to the convention, Aug. 3-15, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

PHOTO: Signage is displayed during a media walkthrough for the upcoming Democratic National Convention (DNC) at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Jan. 7, 2020.
Signage is displayed during a media walkthrough for the upcoming Democratic National Convention (DNC) at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Jan. 7, 2020.
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The planners for the convention also unveiled the leaders who have been asked to serve as permanent officers for the convention, including honorary chairs House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer; and Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the permanent convention chair. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy; Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.; Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett; Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; and Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., will all serve as permanent co-chairs.

Both Duckworth and Bottoms are under consideration to be Biden's running mate.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn.; Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan.; Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla.; former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.; Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes; Nevada Lt. Governor Kate Marshall; Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist; and former Rep. Tony Coelho, D-Calif., will all serve as vice chairs. Rep. Gwen Moore, who represents Milwaukee in Congress, will serve as the sergeant-at-arms.

Both the schedule and the list of officers were submitted to the convention's rules committee to be ratified on Thursday.

The convention organizers also released a fuller list of daytime activities, including virtual caucus and council meetings for delegates and the party's rank-and-file, which will take place over the course of the convention.

"We are looking forward to a historic convention anchored in Milwaukee, and through the leadership of the permanent officers who will help oversee this convention, Democrats will come together to continue the work to elect Joe Biden as the next president of the United States," said DNC Chair Tom Perez. "We have an exciting lineup of programming over the course of four nights as we seek a better future for all Americans, and unite around our shared values and Joe Biden’s vision for a better, safer future for the country."

This is only the next in a series of announcements for a gathering that was once expected to bookend a hard-fought primary season by showcasing party unity with an initially ambitious event that has since been completely transformed by the coronavirus.

While Biden still intends to accept the party’s nomination in Milwaukee at the mostly virtual convention, this year's event will be a sharp departure from the usual pageantry, crowd of 50,000 and boisterous debates on the convention floor.

Biden's coronation will mark the formal start of the general election, but the former vice president is set to take the stage before a room without any delegates or members of Congress, who were instructed to not attend the convention in-person.

PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Delegates celebrate after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton delivered a speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 28, 2016, in Philadelphia.
Delegates celebrate after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton delivered a speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 28, 2016, in Philadelphia.
Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

For those planning to be in Milwaukee, the drastically scaled-back gathering will feature daily COVID-19 testing, self-isolation periods before entering the convention hall, and requirements of masks, with other personal protective equipment strongly recommended.

Democrats previously postponed the event from July to August to provide more time for planners to adjust to a pandemic reality. As the coronavirus continued to spread, organizers announced that the convention will include in-person aspects "anchored" in Wisconsin, as well as virtual components from satellite locations across the country.

Party officials also decided to move the convention from the Fiserv Forum, home to the Milwaukee Bucks, to the Wisconsin Center, a smaller venue just blocks away. Many details of the party's signature event, including the size of the crowd anticipated to be in Milwaukee, are still to be announced, with officials being guided by the state of the outbreak and the advice of public health experts.

Contrary to their Republican counterparts, Democrats decided over a month ago to shift to the largely virtual convention, as President Donald Trump scrambled plans for the GOP's event more than once.

After Trump forced the Republican National Convention to move his celebration out of North Carolina because of a tense standoff with Gov. Roy Cooper over safety restrictions, he then abruptly canceled the fanfare that was expected for his convention speech in Jacksonville, Florida, last week -- casting his decision as one motivated by both safety concerns and the mood of the country. His decision came after months of downplaying the virus and as cases in Jacksonville and across Florida surged.

Republican delegates are still set to gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, to conduct official business for their convention, including formally nominating the president, and new plans for Trump's acceptance speech will be announced "fairly soon," he said, while not ruling out whether the White House might potentially serve as a backdrop.

Democrats are now facing renewed pressure to safely put on a celebratory event in a state that is seeing rising cases of the virus. On Wednesday, Wisconsin reported more than 51,000 confirmed cases and a death toll nearing 1,000.

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