States wrestle with primary election, public health debate

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — Another round of primary elections is happening Tuesday, but one state—Ohio—decided to postpone its elections over coronavirus fears.

Florida, Arizona, and Illinois went ahead with primaries as scheduled Tuesday.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown said keeping voters safe outweighs everything else.

“I trust Gov. DeWine to do the right thing for public health,” he said.

Late Monday night, Ohio postponed its primary over coronavirus fears.

“Many poll workers were deciding they shouldn’t go, and I don’t blame them at all,” Brown said.

But Illinois decided to move ahead with its primary.

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said.

Durbin said there was no good option—stop the polls to stop the virus or carry on as scheduled and risk further spread.

“If the election judges show up, if the polling places opened as promised and we have a credible election, we’ll have it behind us. But it was a tough call,” he said.

Some also worry about the precedent these kinds of delays set.

“My one concern is that this not become a pattern, that no president can do this with a general election in a time of crisis,” Brown said.

But only Congress can change the date of a national election.

“Any time we start changing elections that are required by law, I get worried,” Durbin said. “But the health and safety of people in every state is more important than any single election.”

So far, experts said it appears states that decide to postpone are trying to maintain election integrity.

“It looks like they’re taking all the steps that are needed to keep the public safe and healthy while preserving the opportunity to vote both in the future and by alternative means,” said James Wallner of R Street Institute.

On Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also announced he’s delaying the state’s April primary until June.

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