Millions of concerned Americans go to polling stations in three states on Tuesday, but not to Ohio, as the coronavirus pandemic scolds the country’s primary democrats, with favorite Joe Biden and rival Bernie Sanders.
Campaign has moved from rallies to online events, candidates’ debates are without a hearing and several states have postponed their primaries as the virus, which has killed more than 80 people nationwide, is causing unprecedented changes in the political landscape during an election year.
Ohio became the last and largest state to disrupt the voting calendar when authorities ordered the closure of polling stations.
Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, challenged a court ruling and declared a health emergency Monday night, hours before residents of the Midwest industrial battlefield began to vote.
Democrats are picking a candidate to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the November elections, but doubts and concerns have undermined the process.
As Arizona, Florida and Illinois prepare to vote on Tuesday, there is confusion over polling station security given the pandemic.
Voters are also in conflict over venturing to vote after Trump urged Americans to limit rallies to groups of less than 10 people.
“Democracy must continue”
Despite DeWine’s move to shuttered polling stations in Ohio, he appeared to be a lonely official voice calling for a delay, and failed to gain support from Trump, who said it was up to the states to make the call.
In the end, the president said, “I don’t think the postponement is necessary.”
But the vote could be undermined in part by a potential fear factor for the elderly, who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Florida officials, with the most delegates at stake on Tuesday, said the state was working hard to keep the process safe.
In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey said state and Democratic Party officials agreed that the primary should continue.
“We have no guarantee that there will be a time in the future when it will be safer than tomorrow,” said Ducey on Monday.
“Democracy must continue.”
Biden, 77, dominates the polls by large margins in Arizona, Illinois, and especially Florida, where the former vice president could strike a hammer against his rival by building an insurmountable lead in the delegate count.
Tuesday could be a defining moment for leftist Sanders, who will face increasing pressure to resign if he doesn’t mark a major upheaval.
Meanwhile, Americans stay home from work or school in the millions as the country implements emergency measures to worsen the crisis.
Kentucky announced a Monday postponement of its primary from May to June, while Georgia, which was next to vote on March 24, delays until May.
Louisiana previously postponed its elections from April to June 20.
Biden and Sanders say they will be campaigning exclusively online for now – an incredible scenario at the height of an American presidential battle.
The two take precautions during the epidemic: they wash their hands frequently, staff work from home, and live campaign events have been suppressed.
Sanders organized a “digital gathering” Monday night with renowned supporter and veteran rocker Neil Young.
The inability to campaign in person imposes a particular handicap on Sanders, who has constantly mobilized a large and enthusiastic crowd during his events.
Sanders admitted that he was now the underdog in the race for delegates, but stressed that his progressive movement had “transformed” the 2020 campaign.
“We have in many ways won the ideological struggle,” he said, drawing voters and rival Democratic candidates to his more liberal policies, including a public college with no tuition fees.
He said that the pandemic has served as an example to explain why Americans would be better served by a universal health care system.
But it also hit a unity note.
“At this incredibly difficult time, when so many people are very, very nervous and rightly so, this is the time when we have to come together,” said Sanders.
Biden called Sanders’ so-called “Medicare for All” plan unrealistic given today’s political divisions, saying Sanders has yet to explain how he would pay for such an expensive economic overhaul.
“People are looking for results, not a revolution,” Biden said in the panel discussion on Sunday, referring to Sanders’ call for radical socio-economic change.
But Monday, in a video posted on his Twitter feed, Biden echoed Sanders’ message of unity.
“We will defeat this coronavirus,” he said. “Please take care of yourself.”