First the Democratic presidential candidates were suspending their campaign events. Then Sunday’s debate, originally planned for Phoenix, was moved to Washington and conducted without a live audience.
Now we’re at the point where some states are postponing voting in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Louisiana, Georgia and Kentucky have all pushed back their primary elections.
In Ohio, a last-minute move has only added to the uncertainty. Ohio was one of four states scheduled to hold Democratic primaries on Tuesday, but its governor, Mike DeWine, recommended on Monday afternoon that it move its election to June 2 and allow mail-in voting to continue until then.
“It is clear that tomorrow’s in-person voting does not conform and cannot conform with these C.D.C. guidelines,” Mr. DeWine said, referring to a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that any events in the United States be canceled or postponed where 50 people or more are expected to gather.
On Monday evening, a county judge rejected the governor’s request. But Mr. DeWine said late Monday night that he and top state health officials would ignore that ruling and order the polls closed by declaring a public health emergency. (Track the latest developments here.)
Florida, Illinois and Arizona have decided to press on with their primaries on Tuesday, so expect hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to be distributed at polling places. And expect the coronavirus to be going around at some of them, experts say.
“Currently, the state of the situation is that the virus is in the community, probably more than is actually reported,” Dr. E. Hanh Le, the senior director of medical affairs at Healthline, said in an interview. “Many of the symptoms are so mild, a lot of people are reporting that they don’t have any symptoms at all. So it is probably much more prevalent than we know about at this point.”
In the Bay Area, where voting in the California primary has already occurred, local officials have issued a shelter-at-home order, effectively barring people from leaving their homes under most circumstances.
But in states that vote Tuesday, officials are doing an elaborate dance, encouraging people to stay home except when absolutely necessary — while also reassuring voters that it’s OK to take part in the political process.
Dr. Le said that despite the seriousness of the virus, voters who take necessary precautions shouldn’t feel obligated to stay home. She has been closely following preparations at the state level, and she expressed satisfaction with the precautions being taken.
“Particularly for states like Arizona and Florida, where there’s a higher population of older voters, they’ve done a great job I think of pre-emptively preparing themselves,” she said. That includes “making sure that their polling stations and poll employees know what to do in terms of accepting people when they come; making sure the machines are cleaned before and throughout the day, so that when people come in they’re not contaminating each other.”
In Florida, the most delegate-rich state on the Democratic calendar Tuesday, more than 100 cases of the virus have been confirmed, and at least three people have been killed by it, according to a New York Times database. Mark Ard, a spokesman for Florida’s Division of Elections, said the state was coordinating its response with the 67 county election supervisors and was helping provide counties with health supplies.
“We are working with the supervisors of elections to make sure they’re prepared and they have what they need, working with their emergency management officials to make sure that they have what they need,” he said in an interview.
Polling sites in Florida, Illinois and Arizona have been moved out of many senior centers in order to prevent voters from coming into contact with higher-risk, elderly voters. “Our recommendation would be if there’s a polling location in an assisted living facility, allow the residents to vote there,” Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said Wednesday. “But maybe the general public should have the option or be directed to go to a different polling location.”
Ohio’s voters would have more than two extra months to send in their ballots if the election is postponed, but in the three states that plan to proceed with voting Tuesday, mail balloting has not been extended.
In Arizona’s most populous county, Maricopa County, a partisan battle broke out last week over whether to take added measures to help people mail in votes in the primary. Adrian Fontes, the county recorder, who is a Democrat, announced a plan to mail ballots to all Democrats who had not yet cast early votes. But the state’s attorney general, Mark Brnovich, a Republican, acquired a restraining order to prevent Mr. Fontes from sending the ballots.
The Arizona secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, is now seeking legislation that could prevent hangups like this in the future, by allowing election officials to authorize all-mail elections in cases of emergency like this one.
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Monday mailbag: Biden’s V.P. shortlist
This morning, we listed Senators Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren as some of the possible running mates for Joe Biden after he declared he would select a woman for the job. Eric Wiesenthal of Sacramento writes:
Your bullet on possible V.P. candidates was easy, but not very imaginative. I agree with you listing the women who’ve run this time, but I would suggest you and your team begin investigating possible African-American and Latinx candidates. Stacey Abrams of Georgia comes to mind, as does Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. My guess is there is a robust shortlist of women of color who would bring youth, energy and genuine excitement for what the Democrats will offer.
Our colleague Katie Glueck gave us an update on the thinking in the Biden camp:
While Mr. Biden is certainly not yet the nominee, he has mentioned by name, or alluded to, a long list of potential running mates, including many of his former rivals. And his allies are already quietly — and largely unofficially — debating the merits of various vice-presidential candidates, mainly focusing on the names Mr. Biden himself has floated in public.
One school of thought holds that Mr. Biden must choose a running mate who reflects the racial diversity of the Democratic Party, and he is already facing pressure from some of his most loyal backers to select an African-American woman in recognition of his unique debt to black voters.
Another view is that the stakes of the election are so high, and Democrats are so focused on beating Mr. Trump, that Mr. Biden is likely to have wide latitude to choose whichever person he concludes is likeliest to help him win the general election. And choosing a popular woman for the vice presidency might be greeted with strong enough enthusiasm within the Democratic Party to offset any reservations about an all-white ticket.
Some close to Mr. Biden’s campaign have noted that he appears fond of Ms. Klobuchar, who endorsed him before Super Tuesday. He went on to win her home state, Minnesota, despite never having campaigned there this cycle, and he seemed visibly incredulous at his results watch party that evening when he noted the victory, a reflection of how unexpected it was.
A day after Ms. Harris dropped out of the race, Mr. Biden said: “She can be the president one day herself. She can be the vice president.” She rallied with him on the eve of the Michigan primary, and he dealt a major blow to Mr. Sanders in that contest. There are still bruised feelings among some in the Biden camp over her lacerating remarks about his views on busing during a debate-stage clash, but Mr. Biden has said that he doesn’t hold grudges.
He has also expressed openness to Ms. Warren, though more recently he emphasized her value in the Senate. Still, he said on the debate stage on Sunday that they had spoken recently, and over the weekend he endorsed her bankruptcy proposal.
In November, he alluded to several other women outside of Washington: Ms. Abrams, the former Georgia House minority leader and 2018 nominee for governor; Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general who was fired by President Trump early in his term; and Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.
Other names generating chatter include Ms. Cortez Masto of Nevada, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Representative Val Demings of Florida. But in an MSNBC interview on Monday, Ms. Whitmer appeared to take herself out of the running. “It is not going to be me, but I’m going to have a hand in helping make sure that he has got the rounded-out ticket that can win,” she said.
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