Georgia is postponing its March 24 presidential primary due to the coronavirus, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Saturday.
Louisiana last week announced that its April 4 primary would be delayed until June 20.
“Events are moving rapidly and my highest priority is protecting the health of our poll workers, their families, and the community at large,” Raffensperger, a Republican, said a statement, noting that both President Donald Trump and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp had declared emergencies.
“Given these circumstances, I believe it is necessary and prudent to suspend in-person voting in the Presidential Preference Primary, and the local elections associated with them, and resume in-person voting for those elections as part of the already scheduled May 19 General Primary,” he said.
I believe it is necessary and prudent to suspend in-person voting in the Pres Pref Primary, & the local elections associated with them, & resume in-person voting for those elections as part of the already scheduled May 19 Gen Primary.
Full statement: https://t.co/QIiMwQE6vC
— GA Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (@GaSecofState) March 14, 2020
The decision has the backing of Georgia Democrats.
“Our priority is to protect the health and safety of all Georgians and to ensure that as many Georgians as possible have an opportunity to vote,” state Sen. Nikema Williams, chairwoman of Georgia’s Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Continued in-person voting could compromise both goals.
“Georgians who have already cast their vote in person or by mail for the March 24 primary will be able to vote again in the May 19 primary for the elections already scheduled for that date. If Georgians who have already cast their vote for the March 24 primary do not vote again in the May 19 primary, their votes for the presidential preference primary will still count.”
Cobb County elections director Janine Eveler said she backed the decision, according to The Associated Press.
“Each day we had more and more poll workers wanting to bow out due to concern over their health,” Eveler said, adding that in recent days she had lost more than 100 poll workers because of health concerns.
Until the announcement, Georgia had been focused on trying to minimize the risks of elections.
“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,” Ari Schaffer, the press secretary for Raffensperger, said, according to The New York Times. “We also have purchased thousands of lint-free wipes for use to sanitize the screens and equipment.”
The only other state to adjust voting rules has been Wyoming, which has dropped in-person voting for its April 4 caucuses.
Alaska, which also votes on April 4, is urging voters to cast their ballots by mail but has not made a ruling on in-person voting.
Connecticut, which has its primary scheduled for April 28, is loosening the rules on absentee ballots to allow people who fear the coronavirus to be able to vote from home.
“Through surprise October snowstorms, November hurricanes, to the threat of a global pandemic — voting in Connecticut must go on,” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said in a statement on her office’s website.
“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 28th, absentee ballots must be available for voters who want to follow public health advice and avoid polling places,” she said.
On Tuesday, Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Illinois are scheduled to hold primaries. None of those states has said it will cancel voting.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who trails former Vice President Joe Biden in the race for the party’s nomination, said the virus has changed how he campaigns, according to Politico.
“[I] t has significantly impacted our campaign, as all of you know,” Sanders said. “That is changing, as you’ve indicated correctly. Our staff is now, by and large, working at home.
“So it has radically changed our campaign.”
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