Citing the difficulty of holding elections during the coronavirus outbreak, states across the country, including Kansas, are postponing primary elections and expanding vote by mail options.
That includes 15 states and one territory — Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wyoming and Puerto Rico.
Six of those states have moved their primaries to June 2, which has unexpectedly become a major date on the Democratic primary calendar. It is among the last dates available before the June 9 deadline set by the Democratic National Committee for states to hold their nominating contests.
In New York, officials delayed the presidential primary even further, to June 23. Wisconsin is holding firm to its April 7 primary date, with in-person polls open, but the governor wants to send every voter an absentee ballot.
June 2 had been an afterthought on the Democratic primary calendar. Ever since Joe Biden seized the mantle of front-runner, voters in New Jersey and a few other states scheduled to vote that day assumed the Democratic horse race would be over before their primaries rolled around.
But with numerous states pushing back to June 2, the date now confers a huge bounty of delegates, second only to Super Tuesday in early March.
Although Biden has built a lead, June 2 — which is eight weeks away — will be his first chance to clinch the presidential nomination.
Some Democratic strategists see possible perils in the delay. Having to wait until June 2 for the next major chapter in the nominating race largely deprives Biden of a chance to rack up interim victories that would bring media attention; President Trump, meanwhile, is promoting his leadership in a global pandemic.
A Monmouth University Poll released March 24 showed Biden with a three-point lead over the president among registered voters nationally, 48% to 45%, an edge the pollsters called “negligible.”
VOTE BY MAIL GROWING
Five states currently conduct all elections entirely by mail: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah, while other states rely on in-person turnouts. That may change this year due to safety concerns.
All states offer absentee ballots, which can be mailed or otherwise delivered to voters’ homes. But 16 states limit absentee ballots to residents with a lawful excuse for avoiding in-person voting, such as planned travel or a disability. Of those, five — West Virginia, Alabama, Indiana, Delaware and Massachusetts — have just waived these limitations for voters in upcoming primary and statewide elections because of public health concerns over the virus’ spread.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on March 31 that America needs to move toward a “vote by mail” system to give citizens a safe way to elect their lawmakers while the coronavirus makes it dangerous to congregate.
“In terms of the elections, I think we’ll probably be moving to vote by mail,” Pelosi told MSNBC. She said she wants to give more resources to states to establish their vote-by-mail systems via another coronavirus aid bill.
Her position direct conflicts with that of President Trump who warned that the proposed bill would hurt the Republican Party.
“They had things that were just totally crazy and had nothing to do with workers that lost their jobs and companies that we have to save,” he told Fox News. “They had … levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
Research has shown that vote-by-mail procedures may have a positive impact on voter turnout. A study of Oregon’s 1990s adoption of voting by mail, published in the journal American Politics Research, found that the changes may have increased turnout by as much as 10%.
Critics of mail-in voting argue that these ballots are susceptible to misuse. In a 2005 report by the Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter, it was determined that “absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”
April 7: Wisconsin (absentee ballots encouraged)
April 10: Alaska (vote by mail)
April 17: Wyoming (vote by mail)
April 26: Puerto Rico (postponed from March 29)
April 28: Ohio (postponed from March 17)
May 2: Guam (caucuses); Kansas (vote by mail)
May 12: Nebraska; West Virginia
May 19: Georgia (new date); Oregon
May 22: Hawaii (vote by mail)
June 2: Connecticut (new date); Delaware (new date, absentee ballots encouraged); Washington, D.C.; Indiana (new date); Maryland (new date); Montana; New Jersey; New Mexico; Pennsylvania (new date); Rhode Island (new date); South Dakota
June 6: Virgin Islands (caucuses)
June 9: Democratic National Committee deadline
June 20: Louisiana (postponed from April 4)
June 23: Kentucky (new date); New York (new date)
July 14: Alabama Republican primary runoff for U.S. Senate seat (postponed from March 31)