More than a dozen states have delayed their primaries due to coronavirus
Cincinnati Enquirer staff writer Ann Sacker explains the steps you should take if you believe you have the novel coronavirus. USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – With coronavirus spreading across the United States, more than a dozen states have altered their primary contests in response to growing concerns.
The 2020 primary election has been underway for two months, but some states started delaying their contests in mid-March. Others have switched to a fully vote-by-mail system.
Coronavirus pandemic: Is the 2020 election at risk?
Here are some of the changes that have happened for upcoming primary contests:
Gov. John Carney has once again postponed the state's primary election.
The presidential primary election will now be held on July 7. It was originally set for April 28, but then was moved to June 2 before being moved to the new date.
An absentee ballot application is also being sent to all registered Democrats and Republicans who haven't already requested an absentee ballot.
New York has canceled the state's presidential primary, which originally was postponed from April 28 to June 23.
The Democratic election commissioners voted to remove Sen. Bernie Sanders and nine other presidential candidates from the New York ballot. Sanders dropped out of the race in early April and went on to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden.
Democratic commissioner Doug Kellner, who voted to cancel the primary, said it was "a very difficult decision," but that holding the primary would have been "unnecessary and frivolous" in the age of the coronavirus outbreak.
"Senator Sanders has not only announced that he's suspending his campaign but he's also announced a public endorsement of Joe Biden," Kellner said. "That has effectively ended the real context for the primary election."
However, Sanders' campaign has since asked the Democratic National Committee to overrule New York's decision.
"Today’s decision by the State of New York Board of Elections is an outrage, a blow to American democracy, and must be overturned by the DNC," said Sanders advisor Jeff Weaver. "Just last week Vice President Biden warned the American people that President Trump could use the current crisis as an excuse to postpone the November election. Well, he now has a precedent thanks to New York state."
New York currently has the most coronavirus cases in the nation.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order to push the state's primary election to July 7. The primary was originally scheduled for June 2.
“I don’t want a Wisconsin, where folks have to pick between exercising their right to vote on the one hand and protecting their own personal health," Murphy said.
New Jersey is one of the worst-hit states in the country for the coronavirus pandemic, where more than 1,500 people have died.
Murphy noted that by pushing the primary by five weeks, it will “preserve the possibility that improvements in the public health situation will allow for in-person voting" or make changes to move to a vote-by-mail election if the pandemic does not improve.
“Our democracy cannot be a casualty of COVID-19,” he said. “We want to ensure every voter can vote without endangering their health or their safety.”
Less than 24 hours before their primary, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers tried to push back the state's election to June.
However, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Evers could not postpone the election, likely reinstating the in-person election to April 7.
Evers signed an executive order that schedules the primary for June 9, but also calls the state's legislature back into session this week to decide whether the election should be held at a different date. The move will likely be challenged by Republicans in the state.
"It could end up in the Supreme Court yet today but the bottom line is the people of Wisconsin, they don’t care about the fighting between Democrats and Republicans — they're scared," Evers said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I'm standing up for them. I'm standing up for those people who are afraid and that's why I'm doing this."
West Virginia's May 12 primary has been postponed until June 9, the state's governor announced.
“I was absolutely hopeful and very supportive of trying to do our election on May the 12th,” West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said at a press conference. “As we continue to get closer and closer, it’s ever so apparent that that’s just absolutely the wrong thing to do.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation to push the state's presidential primary to April 28.
The primary was originally set for March 17, but was delayed just hours before due to coronavirus concerns. There will be no in-person voting on the state's Election Day, with the ballots being cast in absentia.
The Ohio Board of Elections requires that applications for an absentee ballot must be received by noon on April 25. Ballots must be postmarked by April 27 and received by the board of elections by May 8.
There will be some in-person voting limited only to those who have disabilities or don't have a home mailing address.
Lawmakers in Pennsylvania have postponed the state's April 28th primary by five weeks.
The primary will now be on June 2.
The delay received by bipartisan support and was approved by the state's General Assembly.
“I think between moving the date back and expanding the ability of our county election officials to cope with this problem that we’ve done a lot of good,” State Rep. Garth Everett, a Republican and chair of the House State Government Committee, said before the vote, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The North Dakota Republican Party is canceling their party’s convention, where they were going vote on the 29 delegates to send to their national convention.
The state’s GOP delegates are unpledged to any particular candidate, but President Donald Trump is uncontested in the GOP primary.
“After consulting President Trump and the CDC’s guidance, as well as that of the North Dakota Department of Health, which cautions against large gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our State Convention scheduled to take place in Bismarck from March 27-28, 2020,” North Dakota Republican Party chairman Rick Berg, wrote in a letter to the party’s delegates.
Alaska has canceled it's in-person primary set for April 4 and is moving to all mail-in primary instead, and extended the deadline to send ballots in.
The Alaska Democratic Party has pushed the deadline to send ballots in to April 10.
Lindsay Kavanaugh, the party's executive director, said in a statement that they have sent more than 71,000 registered Democrats ballots, according to Anchorage Daily News. That number is seven times the number of those who participated in the 2016 caucuses, according to the Daily News.
"We want to continue to allow for maximum participation in this historic primary while respecting the health and safety of our voters and volunteers," Kavanaugh said.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced that she will sign an executive order to postpone the state's April 28 primary to June 2.
She said in a tweet that the state's Board of Elections requested to postpone the primary until June and that the "election take place primarily by mail ballot."
"I am following the advice of the Board of Elections, and will sign an executive order to do this," Raimondo said in the tweet.
There will no longer be in-person voting for Hawaii’s April 4 party-run primary, the Hawaii Democratic Party announced Friday.
Although officials expected most Democrats in the state would vote by mail, in-person voting was set for 21 sites, where voters could also register to join the party that day. Two rounds of ballots have been mailed to voters. A third round of ballots will now be sent to everyone who newly registers or joins the Democratic party by April 4.
Kate Stanley, the interim chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said in a statement that results of the election won't come until lat May due to the new round of ballots.
“While we regret the need to cancel the walk-in voting locations, health and safety comes first during this challenging time,” she said. “This third round of mail ballots will accommodate those who were planning to vote on election day by giving them the opportunity to vote by mail. However, we encourage everyone with a ballot now to mail it back as soon as possible in case there are further disruptions,” she said.
Indiana has moved back their primary from May 5 to June 2, state officials announced Friday.
Governor Eric Holcomb made the announcement, joined by Secretary of State Connie Lawson, Republican Party Chair Kyle Hupfer and Democratic Party Chair John Zody, according to the Indianapolis Star.
As a result of the changes, all dates corresponding with the primary election will be moved by 28 days to reflect the new date of the primary.
For example, military and overseas ballots are required to mailed 45 days prior to the primary election, so they’ll move 45 days prior to June 2, according to the Star.
Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill announced that the state's presidential primary election is being postponed.
The election was going to be held on April 28, but is now moved to June 2.
“My most important concerns are allowing every Connecticut voter to make their voice heard in the selection of the presidential candidates, and ensuring that they are able to cast their ballots as safely as possible," Merrill said in a statement on Twitter.
Merrill added that she consulted with Gov. Ned Lamont, as well as local election officials, the bipartisan leadership in the state legislature and officials in other states ahead of her announcement.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a proclamation to move the state's April 28 primary to June 2.
At a press conference, Hogan said that state election officials raised concerns about the primary to him last week and even considered conducting the entire election by mail. However, officials did not believe they had enough time to make that work.
“I have two main priorities – keeping Marylanders safe and protecting their constitutional right to vote,” Hogan said at a press conference in Annapolis.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is delaying the state's primary by 35 days after a request from the Kentucky secretary of state.
The primary was set for May 19, but has been pushed back to June 23.
Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams put in a request to the governor to delay the state's presidential primary. Adams made the announcement on Twitter, saying he hand delivered the letter to Gov. Andy Beshear.
Less than 15 minutes later, Beshar posted a video statement on Twitter saying that he and governor both agree to the delay.
"Postponing the primary was not an easy decision, but the Republican secretary of state and the Democratic governor agreed, and so do the county clerks of both parties," Adams said in a video statement posted on Twitter. "My hope is that this delay will allow us to have a normal election."
The primary, which was set to take place on March 29, is now scheduled for April 26.
Puerto Rico Democratic Party chairman Charles Rodriguez requested the island's Legislative Assembly postpone the presidential primary. Legislation to delay the island's primary was signed by Gov. Wanda Vazquez.
If the coronavirus pandemic continues to be an issue by April 26, the legislation Vazquez signed allows the Puerto Rico Democratic Party chairman and the president of the Puerto Rico State Commission on Elections to select an alternate date for the primary without having to go back to the island's legislature.
"The amendment to the Presidential Primary Act is a necessary step to preserve public health in the face of the global pandemic," Rodriguez said in a statement. "Postponing the primary will also ensure a larger turnout for many Puerto Ricans to express their support for a permanent union with the U.S. and the need for the territory to assert itself, with real decision-making power, as part of the democratic processes of the nation."
Georgia’s March 24 presidential primaries have been moved to May.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement that in-person early voting is being halted and the election will be moved to May 19. In-person early voting began on March 2.
Raffensperger said his “highest priority is the health of our poll workers, their families and the community at large.”
“Given these circumstances, I believe it is necessary and prudent to suspend in-person voting in the presidential primary, and the local elections associated with them,” he said in the statement.
Social distancing matters. Here is how to do it and how it can help curb the COVID-19 pandemic. USA TODAY
Louisiana has postponed its primary until July.
After initially postponing the state's April 4 primary to June 20, the state again pushed the primary back. It is now rescheduled for July 11.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said that Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin is developing a plan for how to move forward with the election.
A plan by the Louisiana House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs is being consider that would includes relocating polling places housed at senior centers and nursing homes and the potential relocation of other sites, the Monroe News-Star reported.
Expanding absentee voting by mail is being discussed, with Edwards also saying that extending early voting times being considered.
"People are going to have an opportunity to cast a ballot, and if they are worried about their health — because maybe they are older or maybe they have an underlying health condition and they don't want to go in person — you are going to see them get the opportunity to request a mail-in ballot," Edwards said.
The Wyoming Democratic Party has moved to a mail-in only caucus.
As a result, the April 4 caucuses have been extended to April 17, the deadline for mailed ballots to be received by the party.
All Democrats in the state registered by March 10 have had ballots already sent to them. Voters who registered between March 11 to 20, which was the last day to register for the caucus, will have ballots sent to them by mail. The party said that if a ballot was lost, destroyed, or is otherwise unusable, a new ballot can be requested on the party's website until March 31.
"The COVID-19 virus has created uncertain times, and adapting to those times means adapting our caucus," the party said in a statement on Facebook. "As more states move to shelter-in-place status, we recognize the possibility that Wyoming could follow suit, and are proactively preparing for that possibility by shifting to a 100% mail in caucus."
Previously, Wyoming Democratic Party Chairman Joe Barbuto said in a statement that the in-person portion of the state’s caucus and were evaluating drop-off locations for some ballots.
Contributing: Associated Press