WASHINGTON — Planners for the Democratic National Convention are looking at “contingency options” in case the mid-July gathering in Milwaukee can’t take place because of the coronavirus, officials said on Monday for the first time.
“As we navigate the unprecedented challenge of responding to the coronavirus, we’re exploring a range of contingency options to ensure we can deliver a successful convention without unnecessary risk to public health,” said Katie Peters, a convention spokeswoman. “This is a very fluid situation — and the convention is still more than three months away. We are committed to sharing updates with the public in the coming weeks and months as our plans continue to take shape.”
One person with knowledge of the discussions said Monday that “intensive scenario-planning” was taking place among officials from the Democratic National Committee, the convention committee and the Milwaukee host committee, who were all determining what to do about the convention, which is scheduled for July 13 to July 16 at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
Among the complicating factors are the uncertain nature of the professional basketball season — the arena hosting the convention is home to the Milwaukee Bucks, a top N.B.A. team likely to play deep into the playoffs if the league’s season were to restart — and how the party’s delegates will be selected. Delegates in most states are elected to the national convention from state conventions, but many state conventions, scheduled for late spring and early summer, are also being postponed.
Convention planning is also hamstrung by the fact that as long as Senator Bernie Sanders remains in the race, Democrats do not yet have a de facto presidential nominee. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has an all but insurmountable delegate lead, cannot take the reins of the convention process until either Mr. Sanders concedes or Mr. Biden reaches a 1,991-delegate threshold.
Mr. Biden cannot accumulate more delegates until more states hold their nominating contests. With many states postponing their primaries, it would be impossible for Mr. Biden to reach 1,991 delegates before June, even if he won all of the delegates in each of the upcoming primaries and caucuses.
A memo sent Friday from the leaders of the D.N.C.’s Rules and Bylaws Committee said 18 states and Democrats Abroad had proposed changing delegate selection plans previously submitted to and approved by the D.N.C.
The proposed changes articulated in the memo include moving dates of state party conventions where national convention delegates are selected, modifying state party rules that govern the delegate selection process to allow proxy voting, and allowing “other methods in the steps to select national convention delegates while implementing social distancing in their state.”
Democratic officials said no major corporate donors had rescinded financial pledges to the convention, but one person involved in fund-raising for the event described the convention’s fund-raising status as “frozen.”
Another person involved in planning the convention said there was still time to make key decisions and emphasized that the party would have some flexibility because members of the Lasry family, which owns the Milwaukee Bucks and controls the Fiserv Forum, are significant Democratic Party donors.