In an effort to keep voters and poll workers safe amid the coronavirus pandemic and prevent the postponement of primaries, the Democratic National Committee is calling on states that have upcoming presidential primary contests to offer options like voting by mail.
“States can provide easy access to voting while still taking necessary precautions to protect the health and safety of the American people. In order to ensure the voices of voters are heard, the DNC is urging the remaining primary states to use a variety of other critical mechanisms that will make voting easier and safer for voters and election officials alike,” DNC chair Tom Perez urged in a Tuesday statement.
Perez emphasized that “the simplest tool is vote by mail, which is already in use in a number of states and should be made available to all registered voters. States using vote by mail should proactively mail ballots to registered voters, where feasible, and should count all ballots as long as they are postmarked by the date of the primary.”
He also pointed to an expansion of no-excuse absentee ballots, which can be dropped into the mail. And he called for expanded days and hours of voting in states where in-person voting would still take place to reduce lines and allow people to keep their distance from others to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Perez spoke out as three states – Illinois, Florida, and Arizona -- were holding primaries on Tuesday. While turnout was low in Illinois as of midday, there was a surge in early balloting in all three states that could offset the low turnout expected on Tuesday.
Ohio’s primary was also scheduled to be held Tuesday, but state officials used emergency powers to postpone the contest hours before the polls were set to open. Primaries scheduled for next Tuesday in Georgia, on April 4 in Louisiana, and May 19 in Kentucky already have been pushed back to later dates, due to health concerns over the sweeping coronavirus outbreak.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also announced on Tuesday that his state's April 28 primary is being postponed until June 2. Democratic Party officials in Puerto Rico – which would hold its contest on March 29 – are seeking a delay as well.
Perez – in his statement – called on states with primaries in the news few weeks to implement some of the voting procedures he suggested rather than postpone their contests.
“What happened in Ohio last night has only bred more chaos and confusion, and the Democratic Party leadership in Ohio is working tirelessly to protect the right to vote,” he stressed.
“Eligible voters deserve certainty, safety, and accessibility. That's why states that have not yet held primary elections should focus on implementing the aforementioned measures to make it easier and safer for voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote, instead of moving primaries to later in the cycle when timing around the virus remains unpredictable,” he added.