The four states with primaries Tuesday are urging voters to vote early by mail and are moving polling places away from nursing homes, trying to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and keep voters safe on Election Day.
Officials in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio are moving to control the crowds at the polls, especially for at-risk elderly voters.
In delegate-rich Florida, where nearly a quarter of the state’s population is elderly, Gov. Ron DeSantis said alarms were raised about voting sites at nursing homes. He said the elderly who live in nursing homes should be able to vote there but the general public will be sent to nearby locations.
Illinois too is relocating polling sites away from assisted-living facilities and retirement communities.
“This is in line with what we are hearing reported nationally to limit exposure to individuals who might be at a higher risk. Aside from that, today is the last day to request a Vote By Mail ballot,” said Dan Kovats, executive director of the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association.
“My organization is making a push on the local level, that if folks have concerns, that that can still exercise their right to vote by Voting By Mail,” he added.
Matt Dietrich, a spokesperson for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said his agency doesn’t oversee the various counties, but he’s aware of election judges going to court to get an order not to enter nursing homes, and instead have the elderly vote by mail.
He noted numbers for mail-in ballots and early voting are up compared to 2016 rates, but it is too early to know if that is due to concerns over the virus or broader national trends on voting before election day.
“We do really, really like to see the high turnout, but in this case, we understand this is a personal decision and individuals need to weigh their civic duty to vote — their constitutional right to vote — versus their desire to protect themselves and others,” he said.
Residents in Florida can vote by mail with the deadline for submitting their ballot being 7 p.m. on election day, according to a press release from Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee. Early voting is also taking place through Saturday in 67 counties.
Poll volunteers, though, are deciding not to risk contracting the virus, according to The Tampa Bay Times, which reports some counties are seeing a sharp decline in workers.
Fernand Amandi, a managing partner at a public opinion consulting firm Bendixen & Amandi, said it’s too early to know whether turnout in the Sunshine State will be low due to the health concerns.
“It’s pure speculation at this point, to be honest,” he said. “A lot of people are not voting yet — not because of the coronavirus, but because they want to make sure they are voting for a candidate still in the race, which makes total sense.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is telling residents to vote early before the rush.
“People can actually go to the Board of Elections, let’s say at 2:00 this afternoon or 2:30 this afternoon when the lines probably aren’t going to be very great at all and go ahead and vote and get it out of the way,” Mr. DeWine said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“So we’re trying to spread the voting out and encouraging people to do that so they avoid that personal contact,” Mr. DeWine added. “We keep getting back to, look — avoid situations where you’re [in] a lot of close contact with a lot of people.”
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is urging polling locations that are frequented by seniors to have clear signage for curbside voting and to complete a full cleaning to disinfect the space once the locations are closed.
“We are encouraging these additional precautions for certain voting locations. We also want to remind voters to make a plan for participating in this election,” Ms. Hobbs said in a statement this week.
Precautions against the virus also hit the presidential campaigns.
President Trump canceled several campaign events. Democratic presidential candidates former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont both canceled planned campaign events in Cleveland, Ohio, this week.
Mr. Biden’s campaign said it was switching planned “large crowd” events in Illinois and Florida to “virtual” events.
Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders were slated to debate Sunday in Arizona but the Democratic National Committee first announced there will be no live audience and then decided Thursday to move the debate to Washington.
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