Louisiana becomes first state to postpone presidential primary

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Louisiana became the first state in the nation to postpone its presidential primary due to fears over the coronavirus.

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said he wants to delay the April 4 primary until June 20. He sent the emergency request to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who was expected to approve it, which would make Louisiana the first state to push back its election because of the virus.

“This weighty decision has been made out of an absolute abundance of caution for Louisiana’s voters, voting officials and the general public as a whole,” Ardoin said, standing with local election officials to announce his request.

Louisiana also postponed elections in 2005 after hurricanes Katrina and Rita and in 2008 after hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Early voting in Louisiana’s election was scheduled to start in a week. But with a large number of elderly poll workers and worldwide concerns about people gathering in groups, Ardoin’s office said it didn’t feel comfortable continuing with the election plans.

As of Friday, the number of residents testing positive in the state had jumped to 33, centered largely in the New Orleans area, according to the state health department’s latest figures. The positive tests are awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of parishes with infected residents has grown to eight, with most of those in the New Orleans area, but one case has been identified in northwest Louisiana, in Caddo Parish.

Both the campaigns of Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the top two remaining Democrats in the race, have been impacted by the coronavirus.

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Biden canceled rallies in Chicago and Miami and is instead planning a series of virtual rallies, details of which have not yet been released.

Biden and Sanders canceled rallies Tuesday night over fears from local officials about holding large indoor gatherings.

Biden and Sanders will debate one-on-one Sunday night in Arizona, site of one of the nation’s next round of primary elections March 17.

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The Democratic National Committee and CNN, which is hosting the debate, said the precautions are being taken in the wake of the coronavirus.

“DNC has been in regular communication with local health officials and the mayor's office, which advised that we could proceed as planned,” said DNC Communications Director Xochitl Hinojosa. “Nevertheless, our No. 1 priority has and will continue to be the safety of our staff, campaigns, Arizonans and all those involved in the debate. We will continue to remain in daily contact with all stakeholders through Sunday.”

»The incredible shrinking debate: Biden, Sanders to debate without live audience

CNN said its network officials agreed. The debate will air exclusively on CNN, CNN en Español, CNN International and Univision at 8 p.m.

Biden was the big winner in the most recent set of presidential primaries Tuesday night, winning delegate-rich Michigan as well as Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho.

On Wednesday, Sanders said he was remaining in the race.