Pros, cons of a virtual convention as opposed to one in-person

Jun 27, 2023, 7:30 PM

Delegates stand for the national anthem during the Utah Republican Party’s special election at De...

Delegates stand for the national anthem during the Utah Republican Party’s special election at Delta High School in Delta on June 24, 2023. Democrats will hold a virtual convention on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Photo credit: Ryan Sun, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — In the lead-up to Utah’s special election to fill the 2nd Congressional District seat, Republicans and Democrats are differing in the ways they hold their conventions to select a candidate. Last weekend, the Republicans held an in-person convention in Delta. On Wednesday evening, the Democrats will hold a virtual state convention.

The GOP selected Celeste Maloy as its candidate on the ballot.

Utah Republican Party chairman Robert Axson and Jeff Merchant, former chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, explained to KSL NewsRadio the differences and the advantages of each.

Axson is asked why the GOP decided to hold its convention in Delta.

Axson says the 2nd Congressional District is larger than 14 states in the United State.

“And so, it’s a very big geographical footprint,” he said. “And you know, a delegate that is Kane County, or Kanab or Panguitch or over in St. George, they have just as much of a right to have the ability to conveniently get to a convention as somebody from Salt Lake.”

He says Delta was selected because it was near the center of the congressional district.

So, why have the convention in person?

“I just think that there’s power in doing things face to face,” Axson said. “And I think there’s a degree of camaraderie and collaboration that can only come from the proximity of relationships that are done in person when you sit down and break bread with somebody, when you have a difficult conversation with somebody, when you share a laugh with somebody, all of those are things that when happening in person, complex situations become a little bit easier to resolve.”

Merchant was chair of the Utah Democratic Party during the COVID-19 pandemic and all of the conventions were online. 

Virtual and in-person convention

He says the party held its regular state convention last month in Cedar City. It was held both in-person and virtually.

However, Merchant understands the reasoning for holding Wednesday’s convention online.

“I mean, obviously, it makes sense to an extent given the size and scope of the district,” he said.

Merchant was asked if a lot of people from northern Utah traveled to the convention in Cedar City?

“I think there was a lot of concern that wouldn’t happen,” he said. “And I would say to an extent people from the north did not come down. But it’s hard to say too, because it was kind of a hybrid model that was used.”

He said the convention was available to watch online, and electronic voting was used.

KSL NewsRadio’s Derek Brown, who served as chairman of the Utah GOP at the same time Merchant was the Utah Democratic Party chairman, pointed out an observation.

“I mean you can disagree all day long on policy,” Brown said. “But when it comes to civility and treating each other as friends, I think there’s a whole world of possibility there that I think we sometimes miss in an online sort of social media setting.”

“I agree with that a lot,” Merchant said. “I mean, look, this is a country where we are supposed to disagree about things, right? … But I also think there are things that are, that go a little deeper than that. Civility is certainly one of those.”

For the Democrats, Wednesday’s virtual convention will begin at 6 p.m.

Listen to the entire segment.


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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Pros, cons of a virtual convention as opposed to one in-person