Primary Voting in Ohio, Florida and Other States: What to Know Today

The Democratic primary race moves to Arizona, Florida and Illinois on Tuesday, with large numbers of delegates at stake for the party’s presidential nomination.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who is ahead of Senator Bernie Sanders in polling in all three states, could build an all-but-insurmountable lead in delegates from Tuesday’s contests.

The polls begin to close in Florida at 7 p.m. Eastern; all polls will be closed there at 8 p.m. Polls close in Illinois at 8 p.m. Eastern, and in Arizona at 10 p.m. Eastern.

These are the first primaries to be held amid the heightened fear and restrictions triggered by the coronavirus. The Trump administration has recommended avoiding groups of more than 10 people, raising questions about turnout. But many voters have already cast ballots early or by mail, including many older voters at risk to the virus.

Ohio was supposed to vote on Tuesday but the governor, Mike DeWine, who had sought to postpone the primary, said the state’s health director was closing the polls on the basis of a public health emergency. Mr. Biden led in polling in Ohio, too.

Mr. Biden currently has 894 delegates to 743 for Mr. Sanders.

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As states and municipalities impose measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, four more primary elections had been slated for Tuesday worth a combined 577 delegates, the third biggest haul available in the entire primary season. But on Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio announced that he was pushing for voting in the state to be extended to June 2 — with no in-person voting occurring Tuesday. Then a judge rejected that plan, leaving the status of Ohio’s election unclear just hours before voting was to begin.

The other states — Arizona, Florida and Illinois — were still planning to hold elections during a viral outbreak so severe that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended against any gatherings of more than 50 people across the country.

If the elections are successfully held, Mr. Biden is poised to do particularly well on Tuesday. All three states are places that Mr. Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. And Mr. Biden has surged in the polls in the past several weeks. The biggest prize on Tuesday — Florida, with 219 delegates — is set up to be a particularly poor match for Mr. Sanders, with its older residents, and a Latino population less inclined toward his democratic socialist message.

Tuesday’s contests aren’t expected to be good for Mr. Sanders. There are large concentrations of older voters, black voters and suburbanites who have flocked to Mr. Biden in the states that have voted so far.

After losing Michigan by 16 percentage points despite going all-in on his campaign there, the Vermont senator faces the prospect of losing Arizona, Florida and Illinois by wide margins. He’s been far behind in public polling and, after in-person campaigning, has been shuttered since the emergence of the coronavirus and has had no public appearances besides Sunday night’s debate.

With even some allies now admitting that Mr. Sanders’s path to the nomination has narrowed to a shut, only a shocking upset in at least one state has the potential to change the trajectory of the 2020 presidential race.

Short of that, Mr. Sanders will be left in a state of suspended animation — far behind Mr. Biden in the delegate race with no upcoming primaries or caucuses to alter the state of the race, at least not until coronavirus concerns pass.

Hundreds of thousands of voters will go to the polls in Florida on Tuesday and participate in the state’s Democratic primary despite lingering concerns about the coronavirus and the health risks associated with large gatherings of people.

But a similarly large number of Floridians have already voted early or have cast their ballot by mail, according to state data. The Florida State Department reported as of Tuesday morning that more than 650,000 Democrats had voted by mail and more than 430,000 Democrats had taken advantage of early voting.

Both the vote-by-mail and early-voting tallies were up significantly from the 2016 Democratic primary, when total turnout was around 1.7 million.

On Monday, state officials continued to acknowledge the public health risks associated with the coronavirus while choosing to press on with the primary election.

“We are fortunate to have numerous options in Florida to cast our ballots safely and securely,” Laurel Lee, the secretary of state, said at a news conference.

Florida State Department officials noted that they had provided information and guidance to county Supervisors of Elections that included a set of recommended precautions to implement at polling locations.

Chris Chambless, the Supervisor of Elections in Clay County — a midsize county just south of Jacksonville — said that disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer had been deployed at early voting sites and that they would continue to be used at polling locations on Tuesday.

He argued that the steps officials had taken to sanitize everything from doors to pens to secrecy sleeves would make polling sites “one of the cleanest locations” in each county.

“I would not hesitate a moment to send a family member to a polling location,” he said.

With in-person campaigning frozen indefinitely by the virus, the importance of advertising and free news media coverage is most likely going to be of heightened importance going forward.

A combined more than $21 million in television ads has been spent in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — and in every state, Mr. Sanders spent more than Mr. Biden and his supportive super PAC combined. The priciest state, by far, is Florida, where Mr. Sanders had poured nearly $6 million and Mr. Biden spent $5.3 million, despite polling in March that has shown Mr. Biden with a large lead in the state. Mr. Sanders is the bigger spender online, too.

In the past seven days, Mr. Sanders has spent about $247,000 on Facebook ads in Illinois — nearly five times the $53,000 that Mr. Biden spent. It was a similar story across all four states, with Mr. Sanders ($106,000) far outpacing Mr. Biden (nearly $20,000) in Arizona and doubling him in Florida.

All eyes are on the presidential primary, of course, but there are also several important down-ballot races happening in Illinois today.

The most closely watched is the primary in the Third Congressional District between Representative Daniel Lipinski, a conservative Democrat, and Marie Newman, a progressive challenger. It is a second try for Ms. Newman, who is backed by the Justice Democrats and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York: She lost to Mr. Lipinski by just 2,000 votes in 2018.

The primary will be an important test of whether someone like Mr. Lipinski, who opposes abortion and voted against the Affordable Care Act, is still welcome in the Democratic Party — and conversely, whether a candidate from the party’s progressive wing can win in a district that, while solidly Democratic, leans more conservative on social issues.

Across the aisle, Republicans will be choosing their challengers against two first-term Democrats who flipped seats in 2018: Sean Casten in the Sixth District and Lauren Underwood in the 14th. And both parties are holding primary elections for an open seat in the 15th District, where Representative John Shimkus, a Republican, is retiring.

We’ll also be keeping an eye on the state attorney’s race in Cook County, home to Chicago. It has been the most expensive such race in county history and pits the incumbent, Kim Foxx, against three challengers. The most well-funded of the three is Bill Conway, a former prosecutor.

More than 380,000 Democrats in Arizona have already cast their ballots in the primary. Like other states in the West, Arizona Democrats are a diverse group — with white voters making up about half of voters, while Latinos make up about 36 percent and black voters account for about 9 percent of all voters, according to an analysis by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

While Mr. Sanders has done well among Latino voters elsewhere in the West, a poll released by Univision late last week indicated Mr. Sanders held just a five-point lead ahead of Mr. Biden.

In polling conducted earlier this month, voters indicated that their greatest concern was reducing health care costs, with roughly 60 percent saying they supported moving toward a system that “guarantees health care for everyone.”

Though Arizona Democrats have said they expect a record number of voters to cast their ballots by mail, the outbreak of the pandemic has unquestionably changed the atmosphere — many voters have said they prefer Mr. Biden because of his experience. But the electorate is likely to split along ideological lines, with Mr. Sanders’s supporters saying that the current crisis underscores the need for “Medicare for All.”

Mr. Sanders has attracted loyal support from his voters, who remain eager for him to push his agenda, particularly on Medicare for all and free public college. And Mr. Sanders took an aggressive tact in Sunday night’s debate, pressing on with his criticisms of Mr. Biden’s previous stances.

Though in recent days, Mr. Biden has tried to adopt policies that would appeal to Mr. Sanders’s supporters, the two repeatedly sparred over policy differences on Sunday. As Mr. Biden appears poised to capture the Democratic nomination, it is unclear whether he will attract the support of Mr. Sanders’s most loyal supporters, particularly Latino and young voters.

But despite Mr. Sanders’s promise to expand the electorate, young people have not turned up in droves for him during the primary race.

“Have we been as successful as I would hope in bringing young people in?” Mr. Sanders said after losing on Super Tuesday early this month. “The answer is no.”

Will those voters be any more inclined to show up amid the coronavirus pandemic?

Arizona offered several emergency early-voting options as the coronavirus pandemic escalated.

Matt Grodsky, a party spokesman, said on Monday that early turnout alone might surpass the total turnout in the 2016 presidential primary race.

Many counties — including Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and Mesa, and Pima County, which includes Tucson — are also offering curbside pickup outside precincts Tuesday so that voters can turn in their ballots without having to enter crowded polling sites.

Officials said they had chosen not to postpone the primary in part because so many Arizonans vote early anyway.

“Safety procedures have been put in place at every polling location,” Mr. Grodsky said. “We believe that delaying the election would cause undue chaos to this election process.”

A video released by Gov. Doug Ducey and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said that those safety procedures included setting “regular intervals” for poll workers to wash their hands, and sanitizing voting equipment and other commonly touched surfaces. Voters will be asked to wash their hands both before entering the precinct and after leaving it.

Maggie Astor and Matt Stevens contributed reporting.

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