Coronavirus not stopping Democratic primaries in Arizona, Florida and Illinois — despite obvious health risks

Coronavirus not stopping Democratic primaries in Arizona, Florida and Illinois — despite obvious health risks

It is time to delay Tuesday’s Democratic primaries.
I do not say that lightly. It would create chaos and confusion. Yet the chaos and confusion of running the election during the coronavirus national emergency without the ability of all voters to mail in a ballot could be much starker.
On Tuesday, voters in Arizona, Florida and Illinois are about to head to the polls in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and national crisis. Ohios governor just announced that he will seek a judicial order to postpone that states election from Tuesday to June. Thats because all four states have been scrambling to run the election during this crisis.
Election results should reflect the will of the entire electorate. The unfortunate reality is that Tuesdays primaries surely will see reduced turnout.
Election results should reflect the will of the entire electorate. The unfortunate reality is that Tuesdays primaries surely will see reduced turnout.
Instead, the governors and chief election officials in these states should all postpone their elections for a month or longer just as Georgia and Louisiana have done. During that time, the states can pass emergency legislation or seek judicial orders that would allow them to offer no-excuse absentee balloting for any voter, even if the initial deadline has passed.
That way democracy can be open to all voters even during this crisis. Further, any votes already cast through early voting should still count, as Georgia officials have confirmed is the case for its delayed election.
This solution would address the myriad problems that holding primary elections right now would create. Consider that the average age of poll workers in these states is above 60 which puts them in the higher risk category for the coronavirus. Will poll workers show up?
Ohio is already struggling to find poll workers. Just a few days ago The Columbus Dispatch noted that state election officials were frantically trying to find people to work the polls and suggested that they might even recruit people who show up to vote to stay the rest of the day to help out. That is no way to run an election.
Election officials in Maricopa County, Arizona, the states largest county, tried to mitigate this problem by saying they would automatically mail everyone a ballot. But the state attorney general sued, arguing that the move would violate state law, and a court agreed. The county then announced that it would have to close a third of all polling places because it could not ensure the safety of the high touch surfaces in those polling locations, with one official almost breaking down in tears because of the consequences.
While announcing that over a third of polling locations in Maricopa County, AZ will be closed, the Election Day Director says “I’m sorry, I can’t do this.” and walks off the podium. pic.twitter.com/9IDtgu1L4z
The Convo Couch (@theconvocouch) March 14, 2020
Ohio and Florida have also moved polling locations away from nursing homes and other care facilities. Though election officials have tried to notify voters, it is likely that some people will show up only to learn that they have gone to the wrong place. That could lead to disenfranchisement if they do not make it to the correct voting location in time.
And the real unknown is this: Will voters turn out? All four states allow for no-excuse absentee voting, but the deadlines have passed for voters to request a mail-in ballot. Yet voters could not have known even a week or two ago that they should have requested to vote by mail.
Last Friday, the chief election officials in all four states issued a statement saying that we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday. Though I hope they are correct, many people may fear otherwise.
Illinoiss governor is shutting down all bars and restaurants. The same thing has occurred in Ohio. How are voters supposed to feel secure about going to the polls amid this growing crisis? Elderly voters and those who are already immune-compromised may be particularly reluctant to head out. No one should have to choose between their health and their fundamental right to vote.
It is, of course, deeply troubling and chaotic to postpone an election, especially the day before. Yet localities have done this in past when the circumstances warranted it. On Sept. 11, 2001, New York City delayed its primaries which had already begun that morning. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans postponed its local elections in 2006 for two months after flood waters devastated the city in the fall of 2005.
Just as crucially, delaying the primaries does not set a precedent for President Donald Trump to delay the November presidential election. Only Congress can set the presidential election date. We must act now to ensure that this crisis does not repeat itself in November by ensuring universal vote-by-mail across the country.
But the immediate problem is Tuesday’s primaries. States should act now to protect our democracy.

Share