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An empty polling place in Milwaukee, WI during a local primary election. Photo: Maayan Silver/WUWM
An empty polling place in Milwaukee, WI during a local primary election. Photo: Maayan Silver/WUWM

A rundown of the primaries delayed because of the COVID-19 shutdown

Just over half of all the delegates on the Democratic side were awarded before the coronavirus halted everything.

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March 17, despite only being a week ago, feels more like a month in the past. That was the day of the last Democratic presidential primaries between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

The U.S. was — and in many ways, still is — grappling with the extent of COVID-19’s spread in the country. A big question leading up to the primaries was whether they would still be held. 

Ohio, one of the four states slated to vote on March 17, followed the leads of Louisiana and Georgia and postponed its primary until June 2. Louisiana pushed its April 4 primary back to June 20 and Georgia’s was supposed to happen on March 24, but will now take place on May 19.

At the time, those were the only three states to postpone primaries, but many soon followed their lead. 

A little more than a week later, there are now 10 states (including Louisiana, Georgia and Ohio) that have postponed their primaries because of COVID-19.

Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, and Rhode Island are now joining Ohio in holding their primaries on June 2, creating what could be a mini Super Tuesday along with regularly scheduled primaries in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and the District of Columbia. 

The total delegate haul that day is now more than a third of actual Super Tuesday at 510 and will get significantly bigger once Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf signs into law the delay of his state’s primary on April 28 until June 2. PA’s 136 delegates will bring the day’s total to 646.

In the meantime, there’s still two primaries and one caucus set to take place on April 4, but with heavy modifications. Voters in Hawaii, Alaska and Wyoming (comprising 53 delegates all together) will no longer go to the polls or caucus in person during their elections, but submit their ballots by mail.

All three states have heeded the calls from the Democratic National Committee to expand their mail-in voting capabilities. Alaska has extended its mail-in deadline to April 10 from March 24, Wyoming until April 17. Hawaii has yet set a submission deadline for its mail-in ballots, but has extended its mail-in registration until April 4.

Both Hawaii and Alaska have sent approximately 128,000 ballots to voters since the change.

After April 4, the next primary is on April 7 in Wisconsin, whose Governor, Tony Evers is adamant about the primary continuing.

He and his wife have filled out their mail-in ballots and encourage others in the state to follow suit.

“If we can do it, you can do it,” was quoted saying by NPR.  

Wisconsin has 84 delegates. In terms of COVID-19 cases, it has 707 as of March 25.

Beyond April 7, Puerto Rico has tentatively rescheduled its primary for April 26 and would be next after Wisconsin. 

The only other primary still scheduled to proceed in April is New York’s on April 28, but the leader of the Democratic Party in the state has “floated” the idea of canceling it altogether. New York is by far the hardest-hit state of any in the country with its case count reportedly doubling every three days.

As for the candidates, Biden holds a commanding 304-delegate lead over Sanders. The former Vice President is 774 delegates from the nomination.

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