WASHINGTON, D.C. – The most elemental act of American democracy — voting — will be tested Tuesday as four states set to hold presidential primaries confront the impact of a global pandemic that has turned everyday life upside-down.
Leaders sent conflicting signals about how to approach the next steps amid the coronavirus outbreak. As health officials warned against gatherings of greater than 10 people, President Donald Trump said elections should proceed.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the state’s health director would declare a health emergency and order the polls closed for fears of exposing volunteer poll workers — many of them elderly — to the virus. Elections officials in Arizona, Illinois and Florida said they were moving forward with plans to vote.
The rapidly shifting developments amounted to a kind of chaos rarely seen in an election season. And it may not end soon as some states that have presidential contests in the coming weeks have already moved to postpone them and others were being pressed to follow.
“These are unusual restrictions,” Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said of recommended federal limits to try and control the spread of the virus. Her group is urging the delay of that state’s 2020 presidential primary from April 28 to June 23, when congressional and legislative primaries are already scheduled.
“Normally, we do not support postponing elections, but these are extraordinary circumstances,” Lerner said.
Campaigns spent Monday sifting through data and talking to contacts on the ground to assess the impact of the coronavirus on turnout in places that will hold elections Tuesday. Former Vice President Joe Biden is moving closer to securing the Democratic presidential nomination, but could face a setback if the older voters who tend to support him don’t show up. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, can’t afford to lose support from young voters who have been his most loyal supporters.
The tumult has left the campaign in a state of suspended animation. In-person rallies have been replaced with sometimes-awkward virtual events.
Sanders, the last Democrat standing between Biden and the nomination, isn’t planning to drop out. Although his campaign looked to have nowhere to go after a big loss last week in Michigan, top advisers now see no downside to staying in the race as they assess how the coming days and weeks unfold.
On Monday night, Sanders staged a virtual rally featuring himself, rocker Neil Young and activist actress Daryl Hannah. He also released a video criticizing Biden for suggesting as a senator that he’d be willing to cut Social Security benefits — a line of attack he employed frequently during Sunday’s debate.
“I don’t have to tell anybody that we are living in a very unprecedented and strange moment in the history of our country,” Sanders said, urging supporters that it may be time to “rethink our value system, rethink many of the systems we operate under.”
Sanders’ team had expected Biden to do well in all four states that were set to vote on Tuesday. But the Vermont senator has also cast some doubt about the entire process, saying no one should risk being infected while voting and noting that it’s important “to make sure that everybody who wants to vote has the right to vote, and that may not be the case now.”
Still, Sanders faces an increasingly tough path to the nomination. About half of the delegates in the Democratic primary have already been awarded and, if Biden has another big night Tuesday, he will pad an already large and perhaps insurmountable lead. Sanders trails Biden by more than 150 delegates nationally, meaning he’d need to win more than 57% of those yet to be allocated to clinch the Democratic nomination.
Biden’s campaign is trying not to look presumptuous about its prospects at this sensitive moment. Still, the former vice president is making moves to rally more voters to his campaign, including his announcement during the debate that he would choose a woman as a running mate.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana congressman and one of Biden’s campaign co-chairs, said the former vice president has “started the process of looking at people seriously.”
Biden appeared to keep his focus Monday on winning the nomination, as he encouraged voters in a telephone town hall to participate in Tuesday primaries but to do so safely. Joining him was former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who served during President Barack Obama’s second term. Murthy encouraged voters at high risk of contracting coronavirus to vote by mail or use curbside voting, if available, but he also explained precautions elections officials are planning in the Tuesday primary states.
The call came three days after Biden’s initial effort at remote campaigning was marred by technical difficulties, a testament to the challenge of balancing what amounts to a national shut-in with the demands of a presidential campaign. “I appreciate everyone bearing with us as we figure out all the logistics of campaigning in a new way here,” Biden said Monday night.
The coming weeks will present additional uncertainties. After Tuesday, the campaign had been set to shift to Georgia next week, but officials there have already postponed their Democratic primary until May 19. That means voting isn’t scheduled again anywhere until March 29 in Puerto Rico — and island officials are also seeking a delay.
The first week in April, meanwhile, would have featured Louisiana, but its decision to delay the primary until May leaves only primaries in far-flung Alaska and Hawaii and caucuses in Wyoming through April 4. That could leave the campaign in further limbo, perhaps prolonging a primary race that might otherwise have been wrapped up.
Voting rights groups have advocated for upcoming elections to be postponed, or for states holding them as scheduled to adopt more lenient vote-by-mail and absentee ballot rules so that people don’t have to choose between showing up at a polling place and putting their health at risk.
Mustafa Tameez, a Democratic strategist with ties to many of the party’s top donors, noted that Americans voted during World War I and World War II. More recent voting during crisis came on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when balloting was already underway but was suspended for two weeks in New York’s mayoral primary because of the terrorist attacks.
“There should be no circumstance in which we say, because of a crisis — regardless of the crisis — that we stop our electoral government,” Tameez said.
Associated Press writers Bill Barrow in Atlanta, Seth Borenstein in Washington and Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that Common Cause is seeking to move the New York primary to June 23, not June 3.
Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
Letters, April 9: 'Skin is too thin for politics' – Calgary Sun
SKIN TOO THIN
Note to Jeff McLean — Tyler Shandro is not suited for political life. It has become extremely apparent that the only skin he has to put in the game is a very thin skin. If not for COVID-19, this sorry excuse for a politician would have been turfed in a heartbeat. It is absolutely unconscionable to believe that this individual continues to sit at the cabinet table and has the endorsement of Jason Kenney. These are indeed strange times.
(And they’re gonna get stranger.)
USE THE SCHOOLS
Re: Auxiliary hospital beds. I hope we will not need any additional facilities for the COVID-19 pandemic but it seems to me that the now vacant schools could be easily pressed into service. They are public property and have excellent infrastructure already in place. They have many separate rooms, washrooms, showers etc. They could also be easily disinfected and returned to normal use when no longer needed.
(Thanks, everything must be an option.)
NOT THE TIME
Mr. Kenney, give your head a shake! You keep stepping on the doctors and all the other health-care workers while throwing money everywhere else. While these other sectors may need all the help they can get, the health-care sector is under more stress than ever, trying to keep us alive, and don’t deserve your actions. Cancel all your ill-conceived notions about health-care cuts, and when we all get through this terrible time, negotiate with the sector in good faith. Backing off now would be like saying thanks for being there for us. Show your appreciation.
(This is not the time for messing with the health system in any way that doesn’t address the COVID-19 crisis.)
DON’T NEED MONEY
Re: The letter from Dan Olenick on April 7, 2020, about help for seniors. The seniors are still receiving their CPP, OAS, GST refund, other pension and maybe even guaranteed income supplement. Most seniors have no loss of income. Therefore, most of us do not expect any financial help, but would probably appreciate a telephone call or email to check up on us to ensure we are okay or have enough food on hand. Most seniors are more worried about their younger family members and their future. We have lived through the polio, measles, and three other pandemic flus. So, Mr. Olenick please do not expect us to line up for government assistance. Leave that for those who really need it. To clarify, I am in my mid-70s.
(Stay safe, Gwen, and thanks for reminding us all to check in with the seniors in our life.)
PAY US BACK
Now that some municipalities are throwing their staff on the dole, they should return the money they save to cash-strapped taxpayers. With the federal government picking up the cost of supporting these workers, municipal taxpayers shouldn’t get dinged twice for their wages. COVID-19 layoffs shouldn’t turn into a money-making bonanza for municipalities.
(This is going to be so complicated financially, all we can hope for is fairness for all.)
On Politics: Biden’s Big Challenge – The New York Times
Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.
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Where things stand in the race
Bernie Sanders has ended his presidential campaign, acknowledging in a video address to supporters on Wednesday that “the path toward victory is virtually impossible.” Still, noting his overwhelming support from Democratic voters under 50, he argued that his movement had already won the future. “Together we have transformed American consciousness as to what kind of nation we can become, and have taken this country a major step forward in the never-ending struggle for economic justice, social justice, racial justice and environmental justice,” he said.
The challenge now for Joe Biden is clear: Yes, he’ll need to win the support of moderates and swing voters in key battleground states to beat President Trump in November. But he will also need to earn the trust of liberal voters and those feeling left behind by a political establishment that Sanders has loudly criticized — and that Biden proudly embodies. Biden, the former vice president, must work to energize young people and progressive voters who largely rejected his center-left candidacy during the Democratic primary race. He and Sanders spoke by phone on Wednesday, and the Biden campaign is planning to release digital content arguing that he has moved in Sanders’s direction in policy areas like health care. With the presidential race scrambled by the coronavirus, even if Sanders offers an endorsement to Biden soon, it will probably have to happen in cyberspace — without the opportunity for a joint rally or physical appearances together.
Trump appears eager to dive into a showdown with Biden. At his daily news conference, he spread innuendo about his presumptive rival, wondering aloud why Barack Obama hadn’t endorsed his former deputy. (Obama made it clear early in the 2020 race that he did not plan to endorse a Democratic candidate during the primary.) “It amazes me that President Obama hasn’t supported Sleepy Joe,” Trump said. “When is it going to happen? Why is it? He knows something that you don’t know. I think I know, but you don’t know.” Of course, at this point in the 2016 presidential race, Trump himself had been endorsed by hardly any major establishment Republicans.
Trump and congressional Republicans are pushing for the speedy passage of a $250 billion bill to expand the small-business loan program that was set up under last month’s $2 trillion stimulus bill. But Democrats are saying: not so fast. “The bill that they put forth will not get unanimous support in the House — it just won’t,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told NPR on Wednesday. Both Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said they supported the $250 billion expansion, but wanted to see half of that money reserved for businesses owned by farmers, women, people of color and veterans. And they pushed for doubling the bill’s total price tag by adding $100 billion for hospitals and health centers; $150 billion for state and local governments; and a 15 percent increase in food assistance benefits.
Photo of the day
A lawn sign for Bernie Sanders was left in a yard after he ended his campaign in Burlington, Vt., on Wednesday.
Wisconsin Was a Preview of Voting Rights Battles to Come.
The partisan sparring before Wisconsin’s mid-pandemic primary on Tuesday was not just another example of Democrats and Republicans failing to get along.
It was a preview of many similar showdowns that are likely to play out in the weeks and months ahead, as the coronavirus renders in-person voting hazardous and governments grapple with how to adjust.
In Wisconsin, the Democratic governor, Tony Evers, had sought to have in-person voting delayed, but the Republican-controlled State Legislature and the conservative-led Wisconsin Supreme Court insisted on going ahead with it. And in a 5-4 ruling along ideological lines, the federal Supreme Court shot down Democratic efforts to extend the absentee voting deadline — despite concerns about public health and reports that many voters had not received their requested mail ballots.
Republicans have long sought to enact voting restrictions that disproportionately affect racial minorities, poor people and younger voters, pointing to the threat of voter fraud despite the fact that it is very rare. And both parties have long acknowledged that making voting easier helps Democrats.
But the coronavirus has turbocharged this debate, with Democrats and some state Republicans encouraging vote-by-mail measures to make it safer to cast ballots.
Congressional Democrats now say they are committed to inserting voting-access provisions into a coronavirus relief bill. Such a national law could help to prevent Republican officials in key swing states like Wisconsin from restricting access to things like vote-by-mail.
Another proposed regulation would force states to allow at least 20 days for early, in-person voting.
“When you look at what is happening in Wisconsin and what’s going on around the country, we can’t let this happen in the fall,” said Amy Klobuchar, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee.
But Trump and his Republican allies have vowed to fight such measures. “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. He has recently been more willing than Republicans have been in the past to say outright that he worries making voting easier can help Democrats.
Last month, when Democrats first proposed inserting voting rules into a stimulus bill, Trump objected. “If you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” he said.
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