Georgia will postpone its March 24 presidential primary for nearly two months, officials said Saturday, becoming the second state to delay voting in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The move comes as officials in the next four states scheduled to vote in the primary — Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — have all indicated they intend to hold their elections on Tuesday as planned, issuing a joint statement on Friday expressing confidence that ballots can be safely cast.
Louisiana on Friday became the first state to postpone its primary, announcing that the April 4 election would be delayed by more than two months.
The Georgia primary will now be held May 19. The change was first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The sudden decision by Georgia, announced Saturday night, comes as the viral outbreak has upended the presidential campaigns and people worry about gatherings and places where they might become infected.
“Events are moving rapidly and my highest priority is the health of our poll workers, their families, and the community at large,” said Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, in a statement issued to The Journal-Constitution on Saturday.
Several other states this week said they were considering changes to voting to address the outbreak. Wyoming suspended the in-person portion of its Democratic caucuses, saying residents would be able to either vote by mail or drop off their ballots at a county polling location. Officials in Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania said they were considering various measures to encourage voting by mail.
In a statement, the Georgia Democratic Party said that it had endorsed the decision to delay the primary election in light of the public health emergency created by the coronavirus and the increased risk to both the public and poll workers.
“Our priority is to protect the health and safety of all Georgians and to ensure that as many Georgians as possible have an opportunity to vote,” said State Senator Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Continued in-person voting could compromise both goals.”
Votes that have already been cast in person or by mail will still count, Ms. Williams said.