New Jersey Joins Many States Delaying Elections to Avoid Virus

Three more states have pushed back their primaries with officials hoping the coronavirus threat will have receded enough to make it safer to hold elections later in the year.

So far, the following states have moved back their congressional primaries, presidential primaries, or extended the amount of time voters can return mail-in ballots: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Virginia and Wyoming.

Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas have delayed their runoff elections.

Wisconsin held its primary Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court and the Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked Democratic moves to either delay or extend voting.

The most recent changes made this week are:

  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) moved the state’s presidential and congressional primary election to July 7 from the initial date of June 2.

“We want to preserve the possibility that improvements in the public health situation will allow for in-person voting,” Murphy said in a tweet, adding that if the state does need to move to an all-mail ballot election, the extra weeks will make the task easier.

  • Virginia’s primary for congressional races will now be June 23, moved back two weeks from June 9. The state’s presidential primary was held March 3.

“We have wrestled with our options and none of them are ideal or perfect,” said Gov. Ralph Northam (D) at an April 8 press conference just before announcing the change. “No one should have to choose between protecting their health or casting a ballot.”

Northam also recommended local Virginia elections, which are scheduled to be held May 5, be held in November. The change will require approval from the state legislature.

  • Georgia’s presidential and congressional primary will be held on June 9, several weeks after the previous date of May 19. This is the second time Georgia’s presidential primary has been moved. It was initially set to be held March 24.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) said he decided to delay the election after hearing from county election officials struggling to prepare for early voting to start on April 27 and Gov. Brian Kemp (R) extending the state’s public health emergency order to May 13.

(Photo by Thomas Werner/Bloomberg)
An election volunteer disinfects a voting booth a polling station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which proceeded with its primary on Tuesday despite objections.

Delegate Flexibility

New Jersey’s rescheduling of its elections to after June 9 could lead to the state losing as many as half of their delegates to the presidential convention , under the current Democratic National Committee rules. Only three other states, New York, Kentucky and Louisiana, have moved past the June 9 cutoff.

But the DNC is working with state party leaders and could offer the states flexibility, according to spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa.

“It is critical that we ensure the safety and well-being of all Americans, as well as protect and expand every American’s right to vote,” she said in an emailed statement. “If states move beyond the June 9th window stated in our rules, the Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet to discuss and determine next steps.”

Even though Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced this week he was dropping out of the presidential race, leaving former vice president Joe Biden as the sole Democratic contender, he said he would remain on the ballot in remaining state primaries in an effort to amass delegates to influence the convention platform.

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; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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