Coronavirus Drives More States to Delay Voting, Mail Deadlines.

Seventeen states have so far either delayed presidential or congressional primary contests, or extended the amount of time voters can return mail-in ballots, all in response to the challenges the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on their abilities to hold elections.

The states are Alaska, Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Wisconsin.

Puerto Rico also moved its presidential primary, joining about a fifth of states now holding presidential or congressional primaries in June.

Many of the states that have pushed back elections are also working to switch to mail-in ballots or making it easier for vote by mail.

Photo by Jayme Gershen/Bloomberg
Seventeen states have adjusted their primary dates.

Here are the most recent changes, which all came in the past week:

  • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) moved the state’s presidential and congressional primaries to June 9, from May 12. Justice said he was hoping to not have to move the date, but it became increasingly obvious it would need to be done to protect senior citizens. “There’s no question moving this date is the right thing to do,” he said.
  • New York’s presidential primary moved to June 23 from April 28. The delay could result in penalties as the new date is after the June 9 deadline for primaries set by the Democratic National Committee. States with primaries past the deadline — currently only New York and Kentucky — could lose up to 50% of their delegates, according to a memo sent in mid March and obtained by the Guardian.
  • A federal judge ruled Wisconsin voters will have until April 13 — six additional days — to get their absentee ballots into a clerk. The April 7 election date was the subject of lawsuits and disagreement among elected officials who worried the state’s plan to move to a mail-only election would leave many unable to vote.
  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed legislation delaying the state’s primary to June 2 after the change was approved by the legislature. The legislation also gives local election officials power to consolidate polling places to reduce in-person turnout.
  • Ohio’s deadline to return mail-in ballots is April 28 after emergency legislation passed the state legislature and was signed by Gov. Mike DeWine (R). In-person voting is canceled in the state. Voting rights groups have sued over the new date, arguing the mail-by process will disenfranchise voters.
  • The Hawaii Democratic Party, which previously announced it would use mail-in ballots only for the presidential election, pushed back the deadline to return mail-in ballots to May 22.

In Georgia, the 11 Republicans in the congressional delegation requested the state’s presidential and congressional primaries be moved “to the latest possible date in order to ensure the health and safety of Georgians,” according to a March 31 letter to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

The state already moved its March 24 presidential primary to May 19, aligning with its congressional primary.

Raffensperger said in a statement that it is up to the governor and legislature to decide whether to move the election. A spokesman for Gov. Brian Kemp (R) said the law gives that responsibility to the secretary of state.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at ewilkins@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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