Coronavirus impacting the Democratic Presidential primaries

Bernie Sanders (left) and Joe Biden - AP images

Ohio cancels voting just hours before it was to begin.

Posted: Mar 17, 2020 5:44 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The new coronavirus forced officials to scrap Democratic presidential primary voting altogether in Ohio and hampered some balloting in Florida, Illinois and Arizona on Tuesday as a global pandemic that has shut down large swaths of American life threatened to disrupt elections around the country for months to come.

Ohio called off its state's primary just hours before polls were set to open as the federal government urged Americans not to gather in groups of 10 or more and asked older people to stay home entirely.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez blasted Ohio's unprecedented move for breeding “more chaos and confusion." He sought to head off more states from taking similar actions, urging those with upcoming primaries to expand vote-by-mail and absentee balloting, as well as polling station hours, so that efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus don't further derail his party's contest for the right to face President Donald Trump in November.

“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, and we must do everything we can to protect and expand that right instead of bringing our democratic process to a halt,” Perez said in a statement. Four other states — Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky and Maryland — have already moved to push back their primaries, and others could follow suit.

For those pushing ahead with voting, meanwhile, problems popped up across the country. In Illinois, an elections official and the governor traded blame over who was responsible for chaos at the polls. In Okaloosa County in Florida's Panhandle, two dozen poll workers dropped out, leaving Elections Supervisor Paul Lux's staff scrambling to train replacements.

"We are at the honest end of the rope," Lux said.

The coronavirus has cast a shadow over the Democratic primary race as debates over policy minutiae have taken a back seat to issues of life and death.

“It’s definitely eerie,” said Jesse Lehrich, a Democratic operative and former Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman who is based in Chicago, who added, "Biden and Sanders are debating the merits of marginally different policies in this little pseudo-reality, while America is consumed by an unprecedented crisis."

Still unclear Tuesday was the extent to which the coronavirus would affect turnout. Joe Biden is moving closer to securing the Democratic presidential nomination but could face a setback if the older voters who tend to support him don't show up. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, can't afford to lose support from young voters who have been his most loyal supporters.

“People are prioritizing their day-to-day survival right now — so they’re not thinking of voting as a priority," said Debra Cleaver, the founder of Vote.org.

Millions of voters have already participated in some form of early voting. But there were signs on Tuesday that voters — and poll workers — were staying home. In Burbank, a small community southwest of Chicago, most of the voting stations stood empty at 8 a.m. Only 17 people had voted, a pace that officials said was unusually slow.

In Florida, Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Wendy Sartori Link said three polling sites had to be moved and four opened significantly late because workers didn't show up and hadn't given notice.

"We probably should have been expecting it more than we were," she said.

In Illinois, there was a push to relocate about 50 Chicago-area polling places after locations canceled at the last minute. The chaos at the city's polls led to fingerpointing between a city elections officials and Illinois' Democratic governor after days of public debate over whether the state's primary should be postponed because of the coronavirus threat.

Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said Tuesday that the board asked Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week to cancel in-person voting, but the governor refused. Pritzker countered that state law doesn't give him the authority to make the sweeping changes that elections officials wanted.

“Let me tell you this: It is exactly in times like these when the constitutional boundaries of our democracy should be respected above all else. And if people want to criticize me for that, well, go ahead,” he said.

Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn said the former vice president's campaign watched early reports of low Chicago turnout with some concern, but those worries abated as voters cast ballots throughout the day.

"You hear there's no rush hour" at the polls, "and then you realize, well, there's no rush hour at all," because so many voters are working at home, Dunn said.

Kate Bedingfield, Biden's deputy campaign manager, released a memo Tuesday afternoon predicting that "overall turnout will be roughly on pace for 2016 in Arizona and Florida and roughly on pace for 2018 in Illinois, and that voter turnout in all three states will reflect the population at large." Bedingfield cited strong early voting numbers in all three states.

Sanders, the last Democrat standing between Biden and the nomination, isn't planning to drop out, with his team seeing no downside to staying in the race as they assess how the coming days and weeks unfold.

He faces, however, an increasingly tough path to the nomination. About half of the delegates in the Democratic primary have already been awarded and, if Biden has another big night Tuesday, he will pad an already large and perhaps insurmountable lead. Sanders trails Biden by more than 150 delegates nationally, meaning he'd need to win more than 57% of those yet to be allocated to clinch the Democratic nomination.

The coronavirus also could amplify calls for Sanders to drop out of the race, especially if Biden comes out of Tuesday night's primaries in an even stronger position, Lehrich noted.

“It all feels like a bizarre formality given the moment — a pointless subplot with a foregone conclusion, in the midst of an existential threat,” he said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 142311

Reported Deaths: 2472
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin35484995
Ramsey14726372
Dakota10271139
Anoka9344155
Washington636273
Stearns625550
Scott360436
Olmsted340230
St. Louis325874
Wright273116
Clay252944
Nobles234318
Blue Earth21147
Carver18887
Sherburne183122
Kandiyohi18215
Rice170210
Mower154518
Winona133619
Chisago11562
Crow Wing114322
Benton103311
Lyon10306
Beltrami9618
Otter Tail9508
Waseca94510
Todd8967
Polk8364
Morrison8259
Steele8013
Itasca78817
Douglas7744
Nicollet77118
Freeborn7185
Le Sueur6646
Goodhue65111
Martin62618
Becker6214
McLeod6214
Isanti5995
Watonwan5824
Pine5770
Carlton5092
Chippewa4733
Mille Lacs44918
Hubbard4344
Cass4225
Wabasha4141
Dodge4130
Pipestone36617
Meeker3593
Rock3595
Brown3483
Roseau3300
Redwood29912
Yellow Medicine2986
Murray2973
Cottonwood2950
Fillmore2770
Renville27213
Sibley2663
Wadena2643
Faribault2520
Houston2381
Unassigned23853
Kanabec23710
Swift2252
Jackson2211
Pennington2181
Aitkin1982
Stevens1941
Lincoln1930
Koochiching1755
Pope1680
Big Stone1591
Marshall1511
Lac qui Parle1453
Wilkin1454
Clearwater1381
Norman1340
Lake1330
Mahnomen1292
Grant1054
Red Lake822
Traverse590
Kittson530
Lake of the Woods441
Cook190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 122218

Reported Deaths: 1691
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk19732289
Woodbury743799
Linn6038133
Johnson602431
Black Hawk5974102
Dubuque550658
Scott487343
Story411118
Dallas357347
Pottawattamie337845
Sioux254417
Buena Vista230212
Marshall212236
Webster196015
Plymouth172831
Wapello158962
Clinton156228
Muscatine153958
Des Moines151611
Cerro Gordo150227
Crawford138714
Warren13137
Carroll120413
Jasper119734
Henry11245
Marion106811
Lee101312
Tama100538
Delaware82713
Dickinson7939
Wright7591
Boone7509
Mahaska73824
Bremer7199
Harrison69716
Washington69311
Jackson6853
Benton6482
Lyon5688
Clay5574
Louisa54415
Winnebago52119
Cedar5087
Winneshiek5079
Hardin5017
Jones5004
Kossuth4970
Clayton4923
Buchanan4875
Hamilton4825
Poweshiek47611
Floyd46211
Emmet45321
Iowa4429
Cass4233
Mills4233
Guthrie42015
Page4200
Cherokee4122
Sac4114
Butler4083
Fayette4064
Shelby4022
Allamakee3999
Franklin39518
Madison3743
Chickasaw3731
Hancock3676
Humboldt3593
Clarke3573
Grundy3406
Palo Alto3292
Calhoun3264
Osceola3020
Mitchell2961
Howard2879
Monroe27212
Union2645
Taylor2602
Jefferson2591
Appanoose2503
Monona2492
Pocahontas2442
Fremont2152
Lucas2136
Ida2122
Adair1971
Greene1930
Montgomery1907
Davis1884
Van Buren1882
Keokuk1731
Decatur1620
Audubon1601
Worth1470
Wayne1373
Ringgold992
Adams841
Unassigned60
Rochester
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 43°
Mason City
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 37°
Albert Lea
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 37°
Austin
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 37°
Charles City
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 37°
Tracking a breezy weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events