Louisiana to postpone Democratic primary over coronavirus

Louisiana is postponing its April 4 primary due to concerns over the novel coronavirus, Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) announced Friday.

Ardoin is requesting that the governor postpone the primary to June 20 and municipal elections to July 25.

“We want to protect the health and safety of all Louisianans by doing our part to prevent the spread of this highly infectious disease,” Ardoin told reporters.

He said that the decision was made to protect citizens and election commissioners, who tend to work out of locations where elderly citizens gather, such as nursing homes. 

As of Friday morning, the state had tested 94 people for the coronavirus with 33 presumptive positive results. 

“We’re one of the few states that is supposed to have an election in early April, which we think could potentially be the height of some of this in Louisiana,” said governor’s office spokeswoman Christina Stephens. “Our poll workers are by large elderly, over the age of 70, and we think it is unsafe for them to be monitoring the election. We don’t think we would have enough poll workers … and we think we should be discouraging people from congregating in that way.” 

The move means Louisiana’s 54 pledged delegates will now be awarded less than a month before the Democratic National Convention in July. The majority of polls in the state show former Vice President Joe Biden leading Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by a significant margin.

It’s unclear if other states hosting their primaries in the coming weeks will follow suit, or what that would look like for the trajectory of the Democratic primary.

On Tuesday, four states host their primaries: Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Illinois. And three other states are set to hold their votes the same day as Louisiana’s canceled one: Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming.

New York and Maryland — both states whose governors have issued states of emergency — are also among the states scheduled to host primaries in April.

Both Sanders and Biden have canceled campaign events amid the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.

“If voters are feeling healthy, not exhibiting symptoms, and don’t believe they’ve been exposed to COVID-19, please vote on Tuesday,” Biden’s campaign said in a statement.

The first head-to-head primary debate between the two men, scheduled for Sunday, has been moved from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., and will be held without a live audience over coronavirus concerns.

On Friday, the Iowa Democratic Party announced it is postponing its county conventions, originally scheduled for March 21, due to fears of spreading the virus.

A spokesperson for the Illinois secretary of state told CNBC that its primary election is still on for Tuesday despite the governor issuing a state of emergency on Thursday. The state has extended deadlines for mail-in ballots to Friday at midnight. 

— Updated at 1:54 p.m.

Tags 2020 2020 campaign 2020 primary Bernie Sanders Coronavirus Joe Biden Louisana
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