DNC calls on states not to postpone primaries
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is asking states not to postpone their primaries amid the coronavirus pandemic, but instead to take measures to make voting more safe and remote when possible.
In a statement, DNC Chairman Tom Perez said that states should begin mailing ballots to all registered voters, and to implement “no-excuse absentee voting” which allows voters to drop their ballots off at pre-approved sites. In addition, Perez said that polling places should expand their hours and days of service to reduce lines and crowds.
The DNC chairman said that postponing elections, as several states have done, is not the right answer.
“States that have not yet held primary elections should focus on implementing the aforementioned measures to make it easier and safer for voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote, instead of moving primaries to later in the cycle when timing around the virus remains unpredictable,” Perez said.
“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, and we must do everything we can to protect and expand that right instead of bringing our democratic process to a halt,” he added.
The statement comes amid intense debate around whether states should conduct elections at a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance saying that people should avoid crowds to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Primary elections in Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana and Puerto Rico have all been pushed back from their originally scheduled dates.
Florida, Illinois and Arizona, however, are moving forward with their Tuesday primaries.
Voters in Ohio were supposed to cast ballots on Tuesday as well, but Gov. Mike DeWine (R) went to extraordinary lengths to cancel the election at the last minute, sowing confusion about whether the polls would be open or not.
“During this time when we face an unprecedented public health crisis, to conduct an election … would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus,” DeWine said Monday evening.
Perez blasted the move.
“What happened in Ohio last night has only bred more chaos and confusion, and the Democratic Party leadership in Ohio is working tirelessly to protect the right to vote,” he said. “Eligible voters deserve certainty, safety, and accessibility.”
The DNC is under enormous pressure to complete the primary contest between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by mid-June ahead of its July convention in Milwaukee. The states have a June 20 deadline to select their delegates to the convention.
The DNC has rules in place to penalize any state that does not complete its primary by June 9 by cutting their number of delegates in half.
Both Louisiana and Kentucky, however, have postponed their elections until June 23.
It’s unclear at the moment how the DNC will handle those changes.
A DNC official said it’s possible that the states will be able to submit a waiver to dismiss the penalties. But any changes are at the discretion of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, which has not yet determined how to move forward.
Perez’s statement noted that the DNC would allow some “flexibility” in how states elect their delegates, but he did not elaborate further.
“The DNC will continue to monitor the situation and work with state parties around their delegate selection plans, specifically allowing flexibility around how states elect their delegates to the national convention once those delegates are allocated based on their primary or caucus results,” Perez said. “The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, and we must do everything we can to protect and expand that right instead of bringing our democratic process to a halt.”
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