• Twelve states and territories have postponed their presidential primary elections due to the novel Coronavirus outbreak
  • Three states have switched to voting entirely by mail.
  • In addition to changing the presidential primary, the outbreak has spurred many states to announce changes and delays to other votes like primary runoffs and municipal elections.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the United States over the past month has affected not only the physical health and economic security of many Americans, but the electoral process itself. Over the course of the past two weeks the entire election calendar has shifted, bringing the 2020 presidential primary to a virtual standstill. 

Twelve states and territories have postponed their presidential primary elections due to the outbreak: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Delaware, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. Most, if not all, of those will be moved to June 2, one of the last dates available before the Democratic National Committee’s June 9 deadline for states to hold their nominating contests.

This is significant for the Democratic primary because it means that a huge bounty of delegates will not be allocated until relatively late in the race. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who holds an all-but-insurmountable lead in the race to become the Democratic nominee for president, will have to wait 10 weeks for a shot at clinching the presidential nomination because his only other primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, shows little indication of leaving a frozen race. 

New York state, which has seen more COVID-19 cases than anywhere else in the country, is scheduled to hold its presidential primary election on April 28, but officials there are also considering delaying the election. 

Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming, meanwhile, are addressing the public health concerns surrounding voting in person by switching to voting entirely by mail.

The COVID-19 outbreak has sparked a movement to shift America’s election system to mail-in voting as much as possible. The patchwork of state laws and election procedures, however, makes any comprehensive, unified policy change very difficult to achieve, especially in the middle of an election season. According to the Times, DNC Chairman Tom Perez is calling on states with upcoming contests to expand their use of voting by mail, no-excuse absentee voting, curbside ballot drop-offs, and early voting.

In addition to the presidential primary shakeup, the outbreak has spurred many states to announce changes and delays to other votes like primary runoffs and municipal elections. A number of political parties in some states have followed suit, either cancelling their scheduled conventions or decided to hold them online. 

For more information, voters can go to Ballotpedia, which has compiled a timeline and several interactive maps showing all the announcements involving changes to election dates or procedures. It also has a list of all changes to election dates and procedures by state.


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