Georgia’s presidential primaries of March 24 have been postponed to May due to fears over the new coronavirus, election officials said on Saturday, one day after Louisiana also postponed its primaries.
Voting in person, which began across the state on March 2, will be halted and elections will be postponed to May 19, the date of the other 2020 primary elections in Georgia, said the secretary of state. Georgian Brad Raffensperger in a statement.
In addition to public safety, a big consideration was the risk the virus posed to poll workers, who are often older, election officials said.
“Events are evolving quickly and my top priority is to protect the health of our voting officers and the community at large,” said Raffensperger.
This action follows the signing by Republican Governor Brian Kemp of an emergency declaration that has unlocked broad powers to fight COVID-19. In a speech on Saturday, the governor renewed his call to places of worship, schools and others to consider canceling large gatherings as the situation escalates.
Friday, Louisiana became the first state to postpone its presidential primaries due to the virus.
As of Saturday, the virus had infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed more than 5,800 people. The United States has counted more than 2,100 infections and 60 deaths, while President Donald Trump has extended the travel ban from Europe by adding Britain and Ireland to the list.
Georgia reports 66 confirmed cases, most of them concentrated in the Atlanta metro. One death in the state has been attributed to the virus.
I think it is necessary and prudent to suspend the voting in person at the Pres Pref Primary, and the local elections associated with them, and to resume voting in person for these elections within the framework of the Gen Primary already scheduled on May 19.
Full declaration: https://t.co/QIiMwQE6vC
– Secretary of State of AG Brad Raffensperger (@GaSecofState) March 14, 2020
Cobb County Chief Electoral Officer Janine Eveler said in an interview on Saturday evening that her heavily populated Atlanta subway district had seen “just over 100” poll workers quit in recent days due to fears for the virus. “Every day more and more poll workers wanted to retire because of their health,” said Eveler, adding that she thought the decision to postpone the election was the right one.
Trump is the only Republican presidential candidate in Georgia.
The Democratic race has been reduced to a two-on-one confrontation between former vice-president Joe Biden and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, with Biden leading the national count. In states that have already held their primaries, Biden beat Sanders among the main demographics at stake in Georgia’s democratic politics, including African-Americans and suburban voters, and was approved by a slew of officials from state and local.
Raffensperger’s office said the decision to postpone the elections was made in consultation with the state’s democratic and republican parties.
“Our priority is to protect the health and safety of all Georgians and to ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to vote,” said Senator Nikema Williams, president of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said the release. . “Continuing to vote in person could jeopardize both goals.”
All votes already cast, including votes in person and by mail, will be counted, the statement said.
Thursday, 224,000 voters had already voted in the primary, according to the Associated Press Elections Research.
The deferred election is the latest in a long list of disruptions in everyday life caused by the virus.
School districts covering the majority of the 1.8 million students in Georgia’s public schools have announced their closure. Among the many events postponed or canceled are the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament in Atlanta, the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah and the Masters golf tournament in Augusta.