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Georgia postpones presidential primary, citing coronavirus

Louisiana took same step Friday, but four states are voting Tuesday

Georgia has become the second state to postpone its presidential primary amid concerns about the new coronavirus. The election set to take place on March 24 has now been moved to May 19, the date the Peach State’s congressional primaries were scheduled, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Saturday.

“Events are moving rapidly and my highest priority is protecting the health of our poll workers, their families, and the community at large,” Raffensperger said in a statement, noting that the average poll worker is over 70 years old. Votes that have already been cast in person or via absentee ballot will be counted if people do not vote again on May 19. Otherwise, they can vote again on the new ballots, which will include presidential candidates.

A significant number of voters have not yet participated in the Georgia presidential primary, according to Raffensperger’s office. Of the 2 million Georgians the state expected to vote, roughly 300,000 had already cast their votes. The main concern about the upcoming primary was the health and safety of poll workers, who tend to be older and are more vulnerable to the virus. Moving the date of the primary also allows for more time for voters to apply for absentee ballots and for election officials to train workers and move polling places from locations such as senior citizen developments.

Georgia follows Louisiana, which on Friday postponed its April 4 presidential primary until June 20. A spokesman for the Louisiana secretary of state said the state was struggling to find enough supplies, such as sanitizer, gloves and masks, to ensure polling places were clean and safe. The Wyoming Democratic Party also announced Thursday it would cancel the in-person portion of its April 4 presidential caucus, as well as county conventions. 

Four states — Illinois, Ohio, Arizona and Florida — are scheduled to hold primaries Tuesday. Election officials in those states issued a joint statement Friday, saying they were “working closely with our state health officials to ensure that our poll workers and voters can be confident that voting is safe.”

Other states and territories are also scheduled to hold elections this month. Alabama has runoff elections on March 31. And three U.S. territories — the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and Puerto Rico — are also scheduled to hold caucuses or primaries this month.

The Puerto Rico Democratic Party issued a statement Saturday requesting that its March 29 presidential primary be postponed to April 26.

“This is an unpredictable day-by-day situation that requires constant monitoring of the progress of the disease. Our intention is to keep all options open to ensure the citizen’s right to vote,” party chairman Charles Rodríguez said.

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