This story is part of, CNET’s coverage of the run-up to voting in November.
President Donald Trump and the Republican Party on Thursday closed out the GOP’s nominating convention, an event that arrived a week after Democrats held their national gathering. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, both parties put together non-traditional conventions with virtual elements, avoiding technological glitches that could have come with the untested formats.
Republicans, though, leaned on in-person participation more heavily than the Democrats did. While the RNC was a mixture of live and taped events, the party conducted the “official business” of the convention live from its host city, Charlotte, North Carolina. Meanwhile, only a small number of the Democrats’ events included more than a few people in a room.
The GOP assembled live audiences on each day of the convention. As the RNC opened on Monday, Trump addressed a crowd in Charlotte after delegates gathered in person to re-nominate him. The next day, First Lady Melania Trump spoke to supporters gathered at the White House Rose Garden. Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday addressed a crowd at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, followed by a performance of the national anthem by country singer Trace Adkins. Trump capped off the convention Thursday with a 70-minute speech in front of more than 1,000 people on the White House lawn, a move that drew criticism from health professionals.
One event highlighted the different approaches of the RNC and DNC: the roll call. The procedural election, in which delegates from each of the nation’s states and territories vote for the party’s nominee, is the cornerstone of political conventions. In normal times, it’s a raucous affair with arenas packed full of cheering people wearing star-spangled accessories and trinkets.
This year, Republicans held a traditional, if scaled down, version of the roll call. The committee sent six delegates from the 57 US states and territories to vote in person in Charlotte, for a total of 336 people. The delegates, who were tested for Covid-19 when they arrived in the city, practiced social distancing and received temperature checks. One by one they cast their state’s votes, standing in front of a white backdrop with the hashtag #RNC2020 printed on it.
By contrast, Democrats last week took advantage of technology to fashion a virtual version of the roll call, with remote footage from each state and territory. Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell cast her state’s votes from the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of an iconic civil rights march in 1965. 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 a matter of procedure as a way to showcase America’s diversity and natural beauty.