Multiple states have either announced they are postponing their presidential primary elections due to concerns about the novel coronavirus or made clear they are considering it. This comes as top election officials in Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Illinois issued a statement Friday saying they will go on with their Tuesday, March 17 elections, writing, “Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past … we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election.”
But Sunday night, in an interview after the CNN presidential debate that was held in a closed-off studio rather than in a hall with a live audience, presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders hinted that it could be worth moving primary elections to protect against the coronavirus.
“I would hope that governors listen to the public health experts and what they are saying is … we don’t want gatherings of more than 50 people,” Sanders said. “I’m thinking about some of the elderly people sitting behind the desks, registering people and doing all that stuff. Does that make sense? I’m not sure it does.”
Here are the states that already are putting off their presidential primary elections:
Louisiana became the first state to postpone a primary or caucus on Friday, with Gov. John Bel Edwards signing an executive order to move the April 4 election to late June.
“Today I have certified that a state of emergency exists and requested that the governor issue an executive order postponing the elections this spring. We have requested postponing the April 4 primary election until June 20 and postponing the May 9 general election until July 25,” Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said.
Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for Edwards, said the move was to prevent further person-to-person transmission of the virus in Louisiana.
“We are experiencing community spread of coronavirus in Louisiana and the governor is taking decisive action to slow its progress,” she said.
Georgia also moved its elections from March 24 to May 19 on Saturday after Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency.
“Events are moving rapidly and my highest priority is protecting the health of our poll workers, their families, and the community at large,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Though it is not a state, Puerto Rico holds primaries for both parties.
The Puerto Rico Republican primary already took place on March 8, but the Puerto Rico Democratic Party last week requested that the state delay its Democratic primary, which was scheduled for March 29.
“This is an unpredictable day-by-day situation that requires constant monitoring of the progress of the disease. Our intention is to keep all options open to ensure the citizen’s right to vote,” party Chairman Charles Rodriguez said in a statement.
The Spanish-language news site El Nuevo Dia reported that the state Senate on Tuesday will consider the legislation required to put off the election to April 26, which is the date requested by the territory’s Democratic Party.
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