CORONAVIRUS

Democratic county conventions in Iowa going online because of COVID-19

Delegates Carolyn Williams (left) and Edward Mahoney applaud March 12, 2016, during the Linn County Democratic Party Con
Delegates Carolyn Williams (left) and Edward Mahoney applaud March 12, 2016, during the Linn County Democratic Party Convention at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Democratic Party county conventions will be conducted online this spring. (The Gazette)

County Democratic parties in Iowa are beginning to notify members of plans to conduct their county conventions online, rather than have gatherings of hundreds of delegates, alternates and others to carry out party business.

“There’s just a whole lot of things we can’t do now,” Johnson County Democratic Party Chairman Ed Cranston said. “The personal touch is how we’re used to communicating.”

On Monday, the Johnson County party began notifying people that the business of the county convention will be done by online balloting later this month.

One of the major functions of the county conventions is to elect delegates to the district and state conventions based on the Feb. 3 caucus results in their county. Democrats in each of Iowa’s four congressional districts will elect seven national convention delegates, and 13 more will be elected at the state convention.

County conventions were scheduled March 21, but were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The plan, according to county party officials, is that all elected delegates and alternates will get a registration email April 13. They will be able to declare if they’re interested in being a delegate or alternate to the district and state conventions, which are scheduled April 25 and June 13, respectively. County party leaders expect the district conventions will be held online.

The actual convention ballot should go out around April 20, and delegates will have several days to reply. Delegates will be directed to a web link to cast their votes.

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The “conventions” may vary from county to county. But in Linn County, where more than 500 people were expected to attend the convention, there will be a process to “seat” delegates by precinct and presidential candidate preference group “just like at a normal county convention,” said Chairman Bret Nilles. Delegate numbers already are set by county and preference group. Delegates will have one opportunity to realign.

Nilles said he expects results will be announced the first week of May.

“There should not be much drama, as it doesn’t allow for much,” Nilles said.

The lack of a physical gathering of party activists may hurt candidates, especially those who are in primary races, Nilles said. Typically, they make it to as many conventions as possible to meet those activists.

Some candidate already are using virtual meetings to connect with them, Cranston said. Johnson County has been conducting party meetings using Zoom, a service for video and audio conferencing.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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