This story is part of, CNET’s coverage of the run-up to voting in November.
President Donald Trump and the Republicans are getting set for the party’s national nominating convention, an event that arrives the week after Democrats pulled off a mostly virtual gathering and avoided technological glitches that could’ve come with the untested format.
The Republican National Convention, which starts Monday, will be a mixture of live and taped events that’ll lean on in-person participation more heavily than the Democrats did. The Grand Old Party is opting for a hybrid model, conducting the “official business” of the convention live from its host city, Charlotte, North Carolina, the Republican committee says. By contrast, only a small number of the Democrats’ events included more than a few people in a room.
The biggest difference between the RNC and DNC will likely be the roll call, the cornerstone of political conventions, in which delegates from each of the nation’s states and territories vote for the party’s nominee. In normal times, it’s a raucous, television-worthy affair with arenas packed with cheering people wearing star-spangled accessories and trinkets.
In the face of, however, the Democrats fashioned a virtual version of the roll call, with remote footage from the 57 US states and territories. Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell cast her state’s votes from the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the backdrop of an iconic civil rights march in 1965 in Selma. A masked Rhode Island chef posed on the beach with a plate of calamari, instantly becoming a meme. The format yielded mostly favorable reviews, using the procedural election as a way to showcase America’s vast natural beauty and diversity.
Republicans are opting for a more traditional, if scaled down, version of the roll call. The committee will send six delegates from each state or territory to vote in person in Charlotte, for a total of 336 people. The delegates, who will be tested for COVID-19 before they arrive in the city, will wear masks, practice social distancing and receive temperature checks. The event will be streamed online, as well as broadcast by major TV news networks.
The different approaches underscore the unique challenges of the moment. Nothing about 2020 is normal, and the conventions are just the latest example of our new bizarro lives. Court cases are conducted online. School is held remotely. Baseball is played without fans in the stands. The Democrats and Republicans moving to unconventional formats is more evidence of how our world is intermediated by the internet, particularly during a pandemic that has already killed more than 175,000 Americans.
“The challenge lies in how these politicians will connect with viewers at home, through the TV or computer, when there’s no live audience,” said Kate Malloy, the creative director at New Hampshire-based Malloy Events.