Louisiana is moving to postpone its April 4 presidential primary due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, state election officials announced Friday.
The primary – which includes mayoral races and local propositions as well as the presidential ballot – would instead be held June 20, Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced at a news conference in Baton Rouge.
Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, told Fox News the governor will sign an executive order Friday moving the election to the later date. The governor is also planning to hold a press conference in New Orleans on Friday.
“The governor and the secretary of state began this discussion of delaying the primary several days ago out of concern for the aging population of poll workers and a desire to prevent the spread of illness,” Stephens said. “We are experiencing community spread of coronavirus in Louisiana and the governor is taking decisive action to slow its progress.”
Louisiana is the first state that’s holding an upcoming primary or caucus to move to delay their contest.
"Today I have certified that a state of emergency exists and requested that the governor issue an executive order postponing the elections this spring. We have requested postponing the April 4 primary election until June 20 and postponing the May 9 general election until July 25," Ardoin, the secretary of state, said.
"While hurricanes, floods and tornadoes are at the forefront of all Louisianan's minds, the threat we face from the COV-19 virus is an unprecedented threat and unlike any we have faced," the secretary of state added.
"Safe and secure elections also mean safety to the people of Louisiana," he emphasized.
Four states hold primaries on Tuesday – Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio.
Meanwhile, Arizona's Secretary of State's office told Fox News it couldn't move the date of their primary because it would require legislative action.
That comes as election officials in the four states are making last-minute moves -- such as moving polling places away from locations with heavy concentrations of high-risk people, like nursing homes.
The secretary of states of Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio put out a joint statement emphasizing that “we are working closely with our state health officials to ensure that our poll workers and voters can be confident that voting is safe.”
“Unlike concerts, sporting events or other mass gatherings where large groups of people travel long distances to congregate in a confined space for an extended period of time, polling locations see people from a nearby community coming into and out of the building for a short duration,” they noted.
And the secretary of states highlighted that “guidance from voting machine manufacturers on how best to sanitize machines, guidance from CDC on best practices for hand washing, and guidance from our respective state health officials is being provided to every polling location.”
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders - asked about the postponement of Louisiana's primary - told reporters at a press conference in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont that "elections are the bedrock of our democracy and we don’t want to be delaying elections on a willy nilly basis."
But he stressed that "there is obviously a growing concern about bringing people together and spreading the virus…. I don’t think there’s anybody out there – no matter what your political view may be – that wants to see people become infected because they are voting."
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign put out a statement following the move by Louisiana.
“Voting is at the very heart of who we are as a democracy. As election officials working with public health officials are demonstrating throughout the country, our elections can be conducted safely in consultation with public health officials,” deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said.
“If voters are feeling healthy, not exhibiting symptoms, and don’t believe they've been exposed to COVID-19, please vote on Tuesday," Bedingfield said of the upcoming contests. "If voters are members of an at-risk population, exhibiting symptoms, or have been exposed to a diagnosed case of COVID-19, we encourage them to explore absentee ballots and vote by mail options.”