by Andrew Kerr
Tuesday’s upcoming presidential primary contests with a combined 577 delegates up for grabs will move forward as planned despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Top election officials in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio issued a joint statement Friday assuring voters that they can “safely and securely” cast their ballots, saying polling locations don’t produce the same level of exposure as other types of mass gatherings that have been canceled across the country.
“Unlike concerts, sporting events or other mass gatherings where large groups of people travel long distances to congregate in a confined space for an extended period of time, polling locations see people from a nearby community coming in and out of the building for a short duration,” read the joint statement from Illinois Elections Board Chairman Charles Sholz and Secretaries of State Katie Hobbs of Arizona, Laurel Lee of Florida and Frank LaRose of Ohio.
“We are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday,” the statement read.
The message of reassurance from the election officials comes as institutions across the country are shutting down to stem the spread of coronavirus, which has infected 145,000 and killed 5,400 worldwide.
The announcement came the same day Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said he will postpone his state’s presidential primary election from April 4 to June 20 to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said at a press conference Friday that he was concerned that some prospective voters will avoid the polls on Tuesday due to the coronavirus, but didn’t say whether he believed the contests should be postponed.
“If child care centers are being shut down, and they are, if schools are being shut down, and they are, what are parents supposed to do?” Sanders asked. “Can you go out and vote if you’re staying home and taking care of your kids? The answer is you can’t.”
“Rescheduling elections is not something we do lightly or should do lightly,” Sanders said. But, he added, “everybody who wants to vote has the right to vote, and that may not be the case today.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign did not immediately respond when asked if Tuesday’s upcoming primaries should be delayed due to coronavirus.
The Arizona Democratic Party agreed full-heartedly with the state’s decision to move forward with Tuesday’s primary as scheduled.
“We have seen high volumes of mail-in ballots sent in and are on track to potentially exceed 2016 PPE results on the Democratic side,” an Arizona Democratic Party spokesman told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Ultimately, the State Party does not make decisions on when to hold contests but we have every reason to believe this should move forward and we are confident in the safety precautions being made at our voting locations.”
Democratic parties of Florida and Ohio did not immediately return requests for comment, but both parties have issued messages of reassurance to voters who wish to participate in Tuesday’s election without being exposed to voting crowds.
The chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, David Pepper, tweeted Thursday that voters can avoid crowds by voting early or by casting a ballot by mail.
Florida voters concerned about voting in person can pick up a vote-by-mail ballot at their county elections office, the Florida Democratic Party tweeted Friday.
But Illinois voters seeking to avoid the polls on Tuesday appear to be out of luck. Vote by mail applications were due by midnight Thursday, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
The Illinois Democratic Party did not immediately return a request for comment.
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Andrew Kerr is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.