Florida, 2 other states holding primaries despite virus | Ohio governor says polls won’t open

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Florida, Illinois and Arizona are pushing forward with Tuesday’s primary election, although the coronavirus is causing headaches as polling places need to be moved and workers afraid of catching the disease drop out.

On Monday, Ohio’s governor and secretary of state supported a lawsuit by voters seeking a delay in the primary until June 2, in the hope that the outbreak subsides by then. Ohio Judge Richard Frye ruled against the motion Monday night because he didn’t want to rewrite the law.

However, Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday night announced his state’s health director will order Ohio’s polls to be closed Tuesday “as a health emergency” over the spread of the coronavirus, a dramatic move just hours before the state’s scheduled primaries.

Not since New York City postponed its mayoral primary on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has an election been pushed off in such a high-profile, far-reaching way. DeWine initially asked a court to delay the vote, and when a judge refused to do so, the state’s health director declared a health emergency that would prevent the polls from opening.

Georgia has already postponed next week's primary, and Louisiana has postponed its scheduled April 4 primary.

In Illinois, there’s no process for canceling or postponing the vote, said Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the State Board of Elections.

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“This is unprecedented, so it’s not clear exactly what the process would be for changing it, though it likely would involve a request to the attorney general to seek a court order,” Dietrich said.

After his strong showing in South Carolina, then on Super Tuesday and six state primaries a week later, former Vice President Joe Biden is hoping to land a decisive, finishing blow to independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

Turnout at the polling places is already expected to be light Tuesday as what was a hotly contested presidential primary is now down to two white men in their 70s. Add in that the states were pushing early voting and vote-by-mail even before the outbreak and many fewer voters are expected to appear Tuesday at their neighborhood precinct.

The states are taking steps to limit voter and poll worker exposure to the coronavirus.

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In Florida and Arizona, the states moved polling places located in nursing homes and assisted living facilities to avoid exposing the residents to outsiders. For some counties including Volusia, Florida, and Maricopa, Arizona — by far that state’s largest — that became a benefit. The counties combined those polling places with others nearby, meaning they needed fewer workers.

In Arizona, the Republican governor and Democratic secretary of state released a video early Monday outlining the steps they’re taking to keep voters safe. Those include measures to keep distance between people, frequent hand washing by poll workers and disinfecting equipment regularly. They also asked voters to wash hands before and after visiting the polls.

“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s well worth it because our democracy is worth it,” Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said in the video.

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

The states have also been pushing early voting and voting by mail as a way to curtail any crowds at the polls. Chicago election officials say the effort paid off with 118,000 voters casting ballots in the mail in the city, which is an all-time record, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.