The 2020 Campaign: Postponements and Cancellations Because of Coronavirus

The 2020 Campaign: Postponements and Cancellations Because of Coronavirus

As the coronavirus outbreak upends the presidential campaign, we’re keeping tabs on postponements and cancellations in the election calendar and on major changes for voting.

The upheaval began Tuesday, March 10 as the Biden, Sanders and Trump campaigns started canceling rallies and converting forums and fund-raising events into online meetups.

Louisiana then became the first state to postpone a primary election, delaying it for more than two months. Georgia followed suit, announcing that its March 24 primary would be moved to May 19.

Wyoming is suspending in-person voting, and going to an all vote-by-mail and ballot drop-off system. Other states are weighing similar options or adding extra precautions for voters.

None of the presidential candidates currently have scheduled events other than Sunday night’s debate, which is forgoing an on-site audience to avoid possible spread of the virus.

Here’s a running update of major changes in an election transformed:

In addition to holding the debate with no audience, the Democratic National Committee relocated the event from Arizona to Washington, D.C., to minimize travel for campaigns, staff and news organizations. But the debate will still air, as scheduled, from 8 to 10 p.m. Eastern time on CNN.

Georgia officials announced on Saturday that the state’s presidential primary, scheduled for March 24, would be delayed until May 19 in an effort to protect the public from possible coronavirus exposure.

The decision was announced by Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state.

“Events are moving rapidly and my highest priority is the health of our poll workers, their families and the community at large,” Mr. Raffensperger said. “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.”

The decision came after Georgia officials had taken steps to safeguard people’s health at the polls.

“Last week, the state began the process of purchasing 9,000 bottles of spray Purell that will be distributed to counties for their use at polling locations,” said Ari Schaffer, the press secretary for Mr. Raffensperger. “We also have purchased thousands of lint free wipes for use to sanitize the screens and equipment.”

Mr. Raffensperger also urged voters who worried that they faced a higher risk of exposure to the coronavirus to vote early or absentee. He said in a news release that the state had three weeks of early voting, as well as no-excuse absentee ballots.

Louisiana postponed its April 4 primary for more than two months, rescheduling to June 20, the first state to adjust its election calendar in response to the coronavirus.

The announcement from Louisiana was followed by one from Wyoming, which suspended the in-person portion of its Democratic caucuses, scheduled for April 4. Residents will be able to either vote by mail or drop off their ballots at a county polling location. The vote by mail deadline in Wyoming is March 20, and the pickup and drop-off of ballots will be held on March 28 and April 4 at county polling locations.

In Alaska, the state Democratic Party is encouraging voters to vote by mail, and the deadline is March 24. The state has no plans to cancel in-person voting on April 4, but officials said they would reassess on a daily basis whether to postpone the state’s presidential primary.

Hawaii has taken a similar position, but the state Democratic Party said that a large majority of the Democratic voters in its state votes by mail. The party said it had already mailed out about 57,000 ballots and would be sending out another 15,000 to voters.

In-person voting in Hawaii is limited on April 4, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. local time, as per state rules.

“Because the vast majority of our party members are voting by mail, we do not expect a large turnout at these locations,” said Kate Stanley, the interim chair of the state party. “At this time we intend to go forward with the walk-in voting sites as they will not be large gatherings.”

The Wisconsin secretary of state says the primary will still be held on April 7 but has made two changes to voting in response to the coronavirus.

Voters in nursing homes and care centers will automatically be sent absentee ballots. And municipal clerks have been given the option of relocating polling places currently slated to be in nursing homes and other care centers where public health is a concern.

Secretary of State Denise W. Merrill of Connecticut said voting would go on as scheduled but also urged Gov. Ned Lamont to issue an emergency order permitting those concerned about going to the polls to obtain absentee ballots.

Under current law, concerns about disease contagion at a polling place is not a reason for voting absentee in Connecticut.

“Through surprise October snowstorms, November hurricanes, to the threat of a global pandemic — voting in Connecticut must go on,” Ms. Merrill said in a statement issued by her office. “The nature of Covid-19, or the coronavirus, is such that public health experts advise minimizing crowds and direct contact with other people. In order to ensure that Connecticut voters are able to cast a ballot on April 28, absentee ballots must be available for voters who want to follow public health advice and avoid polling places.”

The governor was reviewing the request as of late Friday, a spokesman said.

Anthony Albence, Delaware’s state election commissioner, said there was no provision in state law for postponing an election, but urged voters to apply for absentee ballots, which permits people who are “sick or disabled” to vote absentee.

“If we have an application that is complete and the voter specifies one of the reasons, we will certainly honor them,” Mr. Albence said.

This page provides information about applying for a Delaware absentee ballot: https://elections.delaware.gov/voter/absenteeballot.shtml

“We’re making preparations to have sufficient materials in the polling places for cleaning, keeping the locations clean,” Mr. Albence said. “We will review that with our poll workers and try to ensure that we have best practices to clean the voting equipment.”

Gov. Larry Hogan’s office said he was reviewing the possibility of moving to an all-mail primary, but no final decision had been made.

The Maryland State Board of Elections reminded voters that the state offered “no excuse” absentee voting. Here is the information from the state website: https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/OnlineVoterRegistration/InstructionsStep

The state primary is still set to take place, but Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has modified election procedures to try to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

In an executive order, he lowered the signature requirements for ballot access for congressional and state legislative and judicial races, meaning that door-to-door canvassing for signatures will probably be more limited.

The governor also extended deadlines to increase absentee voting in a special election for Queens borough president scheduled for March 24, and said all voters would be able to use absentee ballots.

“Public health experts have been clear that one of the most common ways to communicate Covid-19 is through direct person to person contact, and we are doing everything in our immediate power to reduce unnecessary interactions,” Mr. Cuomo said.

The Pennsylvania secretary of state on Thursday reminded voters of the state’s mail-in ballot option, which permits any voter to request a ballot.

The secretary’s office is also engaged in what officials called “comprehensive discussions” about possible options for the April primary election with the governor’s office, the legislature, individual counties and the Department of Health.

“Our focus is on best ways to protect the integrity of the election while safeguarding public health,” said Wanda Murren, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania’s Department of State.

Voters who would like to vote by mail may request a ballot through the state website: https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/OnlineAbsenteeApplication/#/Onln.ineAbsenteeBegin.

Officials in Rhode Island are encouraging voters to cast mail ballots.

In a statement this week, the Rhode Island Board of Elections said it was working on plans to sanitize polling places using guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but reminded voters that voting by mail was “easy and secure.”

To vote by mail, Rhode Island voters can visit the Board of Canvassers in their City or Town Hall, or complete an application on the Board of Elections website: https://elections.ri.gov/voting/applymail.php

A spokesman said the board was meeting March 17 to discuss whether additional steps should be taken.

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