Could Coronavirus Cancel Democratic Primaries? Mail-In Ballots Offer Solution

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With more and more public events being canceled due to the coronavirus, many people are wondering if the Democratic primaries will be next. Quite a few primaries still remain and although Joe Biden is leading with delegates, Bernie Sanders could still catch up if he did better in the upcoming states than the previous ones. At this time, states with remaining primaries have not issued official statements about whether the primaries might be canceled, postponed, or changed to mail-in ballots to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread. But a lot of people are talking online about different possibilities and some states are beginning to look into the possibility of switching to voting by mail. Here’s what we know so far.


Primaries Have Not Been Canceled or Postponed at This Time, But Some Might Move To Mail-In Options

As of the time of publication, no Democratic primary has been canceled or postponed. 270 To Win notes that by the end of March, more than 50 percent of the Democratic party’s delegates will already be decided. Which means that at this point, there are a lot more delegates to be won and voters who need to be heard.

Here’s the upcoming schedule:

  • On March 17, primaries will be in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Northern Mariana. Arizona will also have a Democratic primary.
  • On March 24, Georgia’s will take place.
  • On March 29, Puerto Rico will host its primary.
  • On April 4, primaries will be held in Louisiana, Wyoming, Alaska and Hawaii.
  • On April 7, Wisconsin will host a primary.
  • On April 28, primaries will be held in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New York.
  • On May 2, primaries will be in Guam and Kansas.
  • On May 5, Indiana will have its primary.
  • On May 12, Nebraska and West Virginia will have their primaries.
  • On May 19, Kentucky and Oregon will have their primaries.
  • On June 2, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and Washington D.C. will have their primaries.
  • On June 6, the U.S. Virgin Islands will have its Democratic caucus.

Some people have promoted the idea of canceling the rest of the primaries, but many voters are not on board with this idea. Rep. Jim Clyburn said Tuesday night that the DNC should “shut this primary down” and cancel the rest of the debates.

But with so many votes left to be counted, the opinion hasn’t been a popular one online.

But some are worried they will be canceled anyway.

Others think that the debates at least should be canceled.

But most people think voting should continue in some way. An alternative to cancellation is moving the ballots to mail-in options, which some state are already promoting.


Mail-in Ballots Could Be an Alternative to Cancellation as Volunteers Pull Out of Helping with Elections

If concerns grow about voting in-person, mail-in ballots could be a good alternative. Some states are already having problems with volunteers pulling out of helping with the upcoming elections.

In Ohio, poll workers are canceling their help with the March 17 primary, The Guardian reported. Franklin County lost three poll workers for each new one who signs up, including 223 workers in two days. Warren County is 100 workers short of a full staff. Mail-ballots could provide a solution.

In Nebraska, mail-in ballots are already being promoted. Anyone who fills out an application online or contacts their county election commissioner can get one, which will be available on April 6, 1011 Now reported. The last day to request a mail-in ballot is May 1 for the May 12 primary.

The Nebraska Democratic Party asked the Secretary of State to move the vote entirely to mail-in only for May 12, 1011 Now reported. This was already done in Washington. The state held its primary entirely by mail-in ballot, CNBC reported. It was one of the first states to report a large influx of coronavirus cases. Luckily, the state was already planning a mail-in only primary election. Kim Wyman, the Secretary of State, told CNBC: “We didn’t have to spin up thousands of polling places today and worry about people coming into contact with each other.”

Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon also do most of their voting by mail already, The New York Times reported.

Maryland is looking into switching entirely to an election by mail for their April 28 primary, The Baltimore Sun reported. This would also help with concerns that there wouldn’t be enough staff to man polling locations.

The New York Times also noted that only a few steps would need to be taken to promote mail-in ballots instead of in-person voting, which might help increase voter turnout that might be depressed due to fears and safety concerns. Most states are already set up for voting by mail, so many voters would just need instructions on how to vote that way. These states could broaden access to mail-in voting to anyone and allow absentee voting for any reason.

Switching to mail-in could also provide some good experience for the November general election, in case the coronavirus is still an issue then. Some people are already advocating for more mail-in options or even online voting in November.


Some County Conventions Have Been Canceled

While primaries go forward, some county conventions have been canceled. The Nevada Democratic Party has canceled upcoming county conventions, KTNV reported. Here’s an official statement:

Due to concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19, the Nevada State Democratic Party is taking every precaution possible as we begin preparations for our county and state conventions. For this reason, we are canceling our county conventions scheduled to take place on April 18, 2020. We will provide county chairs with additional guidance regarding conducting the necessary business such as electing delegates to the state convention.”

Delegates will be elected through a different method which is still being determined.


The Nomination Is Still Available to Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden, Which Makes the Rest of the Primaries Very Important

Although not easy, Bernie Sanders still has a potential path to victory, The New York Times reported. A brokered convention might be triggered if Biden did more than 12 percentage points worse in upcoming states. Sanders would need to do 17 percentage points better than Biden to get more overall delegates. This would require a majority win in most of the remaining states. To get the majority of delegates, Sanders would need to do 21 percentage points better than Biden in the overall upcoming races. A lot of that might ride on how their Sunday debate goes.

This means that the nomination is still available to Joe Biden, who is leading, or Bernie Sanders if he does significantly better than the last states. This means that with so many delegates still up for grabs, the rest of the primaries are very important.

The Democratic National Convention will take place July 13-16. According to Ballotpedia, there will be 4,750 delegates total, including 3,979 pledged and 771 automatic (more commonly known as superdelegates.) In order to not have a contested convention, a candidate needs 1,991 pledged delegates on the first ballot. (Superdelegates aren’t allowed to vote on the first ballot.) If no candidate gets this majority of pledged delegates, then a second ballot (or more) will take place and both pledged and automatic delegates can vote this time. From then on, a candidate needs the majority of all delegates to win, which is more than 2,375 votes.

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