Ohio election officials: Tuesday primaries on despite virus fears

A voter makes her choice during the Democratic Presidential primary voting Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

In Ohio, a plea from the state’s elections chief earlier in the week prompted more than 1,200 people to sign up for poll worker duty across the state after election boards reported some workers were dropping out amid virus fears.

Posted: Mar 14, 2020 8:57 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Elections officials in the four states holding presidential primaries next week say they have no plans to postpone voting amid widespread disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Instead, they are taking extraordinary steps to ensure that voters can cast ballots and polling places are clean.

They have been scrambling to recruit replacements for poll workers dropping out over fears of contracting the virus, providing cotton swabs for voters to use on touchscreen machines and extending absentee voting deadlines.

Only one state, Louisiana, announced plans to postpone its primary, from April to June.

“We’re definitely voting,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said during a news conference Friday. “They voted during the Civil War. We’re going to vote.”

The top elections officials from the four states — Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — said in a joint statement that the vote will go on Tuesday, saying they were confident the elections would be secure and safe. They encouraged healthy poll workers to show up.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

Election officials routinely prepare for natural disasters and other disruptions, but the coronavirus outbreak poses a unique challenge as some areas of the country urge members of the public to work from home and avoid crowds.

On Friday, President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency.

Election Day voting in the U.S. largely relies on an army of poll workers who staff schools, community centers and government buildings open for the public to cast ballots in person.

Because many poll workers are older, they may be especially concerned about the virus. School closures and safety concerns at senior living communities have thrown some polling places into question.

Nearly 50 of the roughly 600 paid volunteers have withdrawn in Volusia County, Florida.

In that state, a group of voting and civil rights groups wrote to the governor and secretary of state urging them to extend early voting opportunities and the vote-by-mail deadline, open additional vote centers and take steps to notify voters of any changes to polling places or voting procedures.

Hundreds of poll workers and election judges in Illinois have canceled their assignments, leaving election officials, particularly in Chicago, scrambling.

In Georgia, where the average age for poll workers is 70 years old, about 300 poll workers have said they would no longer be available to work in the March 24 primary.

Early voting for Georgia’s upcoming primary continued Friday, as state election officials weighed their options, including whether to postpone.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration but said it would not affect the state’s May primary runoff elections that will decide congressional races.

Wisconsin also said it planned to proceed with its April 7 primary.

But Louisiana officials decided the risk was too great.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he planned to sign an executive order delaying the April 4 primary until June 20, describing the step as “necessary to protect the health and safety of the people of Louisiana.”

Some states might be able to send all voters ballots they can fill out and mail back, but that will largely depend on particular circumstances.

For some, it may not be logistically possible.

Uncertainty surrounded how voting would happen Tuesday in Arizona’s most populous county after the local official in charge of mail-in balloting decided to mail ballots to everyone who didn’t already get one.

Adrian Fontes, a Democrat, said he wanted voters to be able to fill out a ballot at home and drop it off at a polling place before polls close Tuesday.

Fontes said he acted after “a series of cancellations by polling place locations and election worker staff” in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and is home to 60% of Arizona’s registered voters. He acknowledged there’s no explicit legal authority for his move, but said it’s also not strictly illegal.

“Considering this unprecedented emergency situation, we need to act to both enfranchise the voters and protect public health,” Fontes said.

But the state’s top election official, Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, said Fontes acted illegally and she pressed his mail vendor not to put the ballots in the mail. The state’s attorney general, a Republican, asked a judge to block the mailing of the ballots, saying it was obviously illegal. The request was granted late Friday.

Maricopa County officials insist they have enough workers and disinfecting supplies for people to safely vote at the 151 remaining vote centers.

In Wyoming, state Democrats have canceled the in-person portion of their upcoming caucuses and will instead rely on ballots that were already mailed to all registered party members.

“Our priority is ensuring that people are healthy and safe,” Wyoming Democratic Party Chair Joe M. Barbuto said in a statement Thursday. “Holding public events right now would put that in jeopardy, so this is the responsible course of action.”

Officials in Maryland and New York have said they’re considering mailing primary ballots to all registered voters.

In Ohio, which is under a statewide emergency because of the virus, a plea from the state’s elections chief earlier in the week prompted more than 1,200 people to sign up for poll worker duty across the state after election boards reported some workers were dropping out amid virus fears.

One state official, Auditor Keith Faber, urged his entire staff to take a paid leave day to help out.

In Broward County, Florida, election officials were stocking its 421 polling locations with extra supplies including 4,000 rolls of paper towels, gloves and more than 400 bars of soap.

“We’ve purchased gallons of rubbing alcohol and are having them transferred to spray bottles,” spokesperson Steve Vancore said. “We’ve ordered cases upon case of Clorox wipes so polls workers can frequently wipe down the equipment and wipe down the voting booths.”

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1380370

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1534461574
Cuyahoga1354332341
Hamilton984041326
Montgomery677001161
Summit566391051
Lucas51349869
Butler47858663
Stark42048983
Lorain31922539
Warren30328338
Mahoning27315643
Clermont25897297
Lake24746422
Delaware22501147
Licking20701246
Fairfield20658223
Greene20527275
Trumbull20127516
Medina20006290
Clark18086332
Richland16602236
Portage16305231
Wood15869209
Allen14257261
Miami13963261
Muskingum12858155
Wayne12126244
Columbiana11896242
Tuscarawas11103271
Marion10865150
Pickaway10580129
Scioto10477127
Erie9822171
Ross9566177
Lawrence8886125
Hancock8567143
Ashtabula8423187
Geauga8226156
Belmont8221188
Jefferson7635175
Huron7507131
Union740751
Washington7334126
Athens705965
Sandusky6925135
Darke6853137
Knox6762122
Seneca6496137
Ashland6035115
Auglaize593188
Shelby5796104
Brown572972
Mercer563690
Defiance5538101
Crawford5530117
Madison549371
Highland548082
Fulton539583
Clinton532081
Logan516987
Preble5058111
Putnam4876107
Guernsey480664
Williams466482
Perry459054
Champaign452264
Ottawa441384
Jackson432963
Pike397045
Morrow393851
Coshocton386669
Fayette381753
Adams366875
Hardin363970
Gallia352858
Holmes3297111
Henry328869
Van Wert318871
Hocking308070
Wyandot284558
Carroll265452
Paulding245143
Meigs220242
Monroe191949
Noble172942
Morgan169429
Harrison160041
Vinton140619
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
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Angola
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Huntington
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Hi: 66° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 55°
Decatur
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Hi: 67° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 55°
Van Wert
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Showers Saturday morning with breezy and drier conditions by the afternoon.
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