Should state primary votes be postponed in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic and low voter turnout?


Fact Box

  • As of March 20, 2020, Presidential candidate and Barrack Obama’s Vice President from 2008-2016, Joe Biden, holds 1,181 delegates to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ 885. [1]
  • There are 3,979 total delegates allotted to the Democratic party. To earn the nomination, a Presidential candidate must attain 1,991. [2]
  • The oldest candidate to ever be elected to the Presidency is Donald Trump; he was inaugurated at age 68 and will turn 74 this year. If Bernie Sanders were to win the Presidency, he would take the crown as oldest ever elected, entering the office at age 79. Currently, Joe Biden is 77 years old. [3]
  • Some parts of Illinois saw a 50% decrease in the amount of midday primary voters amid the coronavirus outbreak, while over 118,000 Chicago voters requested to vote by mail. [4]
  • Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the state of Florida was sued by civil rights groups in order to extend the vote-by-mail deadline for primary election voting. [5]

Amna (Yes)

As of a few hours ago, the COVID-19 death toll in the United States is 174 with a total of 11,699, cases reported [1]. These statistics are a clear indication that the primaries should be postponed in the wake of coronavirus pandemic. One of the fundamental facets of democracy, electoral freedom, stands for a free and fair election which must be accessible for every American. In the current climate, achieving that goal seems inconceivable. COVID-19 is highly risky for the elderly, the immuno-compromised, and people who have recently come into contact with the virus or a carrier of the virus [2]. Calling these individuals out to vote would endanger not only their health but also of their families and caretakers. 

It is unfair to postulate that voters must put the sanctity of the electoral process above their health. The CDC has advised a nation-wide quarantine and social isolation measure to control the spread of this virus. Holding any event that is sure to draw a crowd is tantamount to painting a moving target on every attendee [2]. Ohio has taken the lead in doing the sensible thing, as Gov. Mike DeWine stated that these primaries results would be marred by extremely low voter turnout as well as balloting under the influence of a fearful environment [3]. This process would also place the poll workers at an unacceptable risk [4]. Not only will the primaries not be a productive and fair electoral process, it will not reflect the wishes of the entire electorate either. Hopefully, the same example will be followed by other states as well.

Kiande (No)

Though President Trump has indicated that the virus could last until July or August, many health experts believe that it’ll be much longer [1]. If COVID-19 were to last longer than August, state primary elections would not be postponed, they would be canceled. The 2020 Presidential Election is scheduled to take place on November 3, which leaves little wiggle room to postpone a state primary election.

Additionally, the right to vote is arguably the most important right given to American citizens under the Constitution [2]. In Ohio, a judge rejected Gov. Mike DeWine’s lawsuit to postpone the state’s primary election because he believed it would set a “terrible precedent” of the government infringing on the citizens’ right to vote [3]. The election was canceled anyways. It is important to ensure the health and safety of all people during this pandemic, but there are ways to do that without canceling elections.

The CDC has recommended there be no gatherings of more than 50 people, so how do you conduct an election while also abiding by this suggestion? The most popular idea is doing an all-mail election: rather than people gathering to vote in person, voters would be required to cast their ballot by mail. Other ideas include expanding the voting period to more than one day to allow people to come sporadically to avoid large crowds [4]

Practicing social distancing and following the suggestions of the CDC is paramount during this pandemic; however, it can be done without postponing the very important state primary elections.

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