Former Vice President Joe Biden asked voters in a slew of Tuesday primary states to “please vote” as the coronavirus crisis has led to widespread closings and cancellations as officials try to corral the COVID-19 outbreak.
Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Arizona are slated to hold primaries Tuesday. Already, Georgia and Louisiana have announced that they are pushing back their primaries from March and April to May and June.
“The right to vote is the most sacred American right there is,” Biden tweeted. “State election officials are working closely with public health officials to hold safe elections. If you are feeling healthy, not showing symptoms, and not at risk of being exposed to COVID-19: please vote on Tuesday.”
“If you’re exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 — or might be at risk — absentee or vote by mail options are the best way to make your voice heard, while protecting your neighbors,” he continued.
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Biden, the front-runner, holds a delegate lead over his Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Biden’s strength is largely built on older voters, while Sanders has performed better among younger Americans.
In a joint statement Friday, the secretaries of state for the four states holding Tuesday primaries said they are taking precautions like moving polling locations out of retirement homes and nursing facilities to protect older residents. But the elections are planned to go on as intended.
“Unlike concerts, sporting events or other mass gatherings where large groups of people travel long distances to congregate in a confined space for an extended period of time, polling locations see people from a nearby community coming into and out of the building for a short duration,” the officials said.
“Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past, and based on the best information we have from public health officials, we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday,” they continued.
The election officials asked those who don’t feel well to stay away from the polls. Residents, they said, should vote early or cast ballots by mail if possible.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that the state is “going to go ahead” with its scheduled voting day, “but we’re telling people, again, to be careful.”
“The good thing in Ohio is we have basically four weeks of voting,” he said. “People can vote today. We’re urging them to go vote today. They can vote Monday. They’ve got 13 hours on Tuesday. So that just naturally spreads it out. We’re asking them to be very, very careful.”
Also on “Meet the Press,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state has lengthened the hours for early voting and has experienced record mail-in balloting this year.
“So we’re going to go ahead with it,” he said. “But we’ve been extra careful at all of our polling places. Everybody is practicing good hygiene. And we’re making sure that it’s safe for people to come and vote. The schools are closed, so many people will be voting in schools. And there won’t be big crowds.”