Concern over the coronavirus outbreak has apparently begun to affect the 2020 presidential race as Louisiana announced the postponement of its primary election.
The state’s presidential primary election slated for April 4 will be moved to June 20, Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced Friday, making the state the first to change an election date due to the pandemic.
The move leaves 54 pledged delegates in the Democratic race for the remaining Democrat contenders, frontrunner Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. It will also delay Louisiana’s municipal election to June 25.
“Today I have certified that a state of emergency exists and requested that the governor issue an executive order postponing the elections this spring,” Ardoin, said at a news conference Friday, according to The New York Times. “I want to thank the governor and his staff for working with us in a bipartisan manner to accomplish this mission.”
“We want to protect the health and safety of all Louisianans by doing our part to prevent the spread of this highly infectious disease,” Ardoin told reporters.
Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, said it’s an “extraordinary measure but one we feel is prudent.”
“We’re one of the few states that is supposed to have an election in early April, which we think could potentially be the height of some of this in Louisiana,” Stephens said, according to The Advocate. “Our poll workers are by large elderly, over the age of 70 and we think it is unsafe for them to be monitoring the election. We don’t think we would have enough poll workers…and we think we should be discouraging people from congregating in that way.”
Though the Democratic National Committee pledged to “continue to work with every state party as they adjust their delegate selection plans around coronavirus,” it noted in a statement that Louisiana could face “a penalty that would include a state losing at least half of its delegates” because of moving the election past the June 9th DNC deadline.
Biden campaign spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield noted that“our elections can be conducted safely in consultation with public health officials.”
“If voters are feeling healthy, not exhibiting symptoms, and don’t believe they’ve been exposed to COVID-19, please vote on Tuesday,” she said in a statement. “If voters are members of an at-risk population, exhibiting symptoms, or have been exposed to a diagnosed case of COVID-19, we encourage them to explore absentee ballots and vote by mail options.”
Louisiana had tested 94 people with 33 “presumptive” positive results for the coronavirus as of Friday.
Primary elections in New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland are scheduled for next month but no plans have been announced to follow Louisiana ‘s example. Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio are still set to hold their primaries this upcoming Tuesday.
“At present, there are no discussions or plans” to change the date, New York Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs told CNBC.
“The election is still on in Illinois,” Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said.
“We share a lot of the same concerns Louisiana has,” a spokesperson for Georgia’s secretary of state’s office said. The primary election is to be held on March 24 in that state.
The coronavirus outbreak was declared a national emergency by President Trump on Friday, and has forced the cancellation of many events related to the 2020 race. Biden and Sanders have both nixed campaign stops and events and their first one-on-one debate which is set for Sunday has also been altered. CNN’s Washington D.C. studio will now be the site for the debate, which was moved from Phoenix, Arizona, and will not have a live audience.
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