The coronavirus pandemic is impacting the 2020 Presidential election. How will the virus affect the voting process? Here’s what you need to know.
Conventions, primaries delayed
The Democratic Convention in Milwaukee has been pushed back from July to the week of August 17, and fifteen states have delayed their primaries amid social distancing guidelines. In addition, in-person presidential campaigning has come to a halt.
The Republican Convention will be held one week after the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, NC, August 24 – 27. This August date had already been chosen before the pandemic.
Bernie Sanders exits race
On Wednesday, April 9, Bernie Sanders ended his presidential campaign among the disruptions of the coronavirus. So, now the two candidates are incumbent Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
The election day is set for November 3, a date which has been set by federal law since 1845. Many have speculated that President Trump will try to move or cancel that date, but this is likely not possible.
Another possibility is changing the election to a mail-in voting election. With experts conjecturing a second wave of the virus in the fall, in-person polling would not be safe for voters. At the time, there is no way to predict what exactly will happen next with the election.
Postponed state primaries
The following are the postponed state primaries, thus far:
- Ohio: March 17 primary postponed to June 2
- Georgia: March 24 primary postponed to May 19
- Puerto Rico: March 29 primary postponed to April 26
- Alaska and Hawaii: April 4 primaries changed from in-person voting to mail ballots
- Louisiana: April 4 primary delayed to June 20
- Wyoming: April 4 in-person caucus canceled; March 20 was the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot
- Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island: April 28 primaries postponed to June 2
- New York: delayed from April 28 to June 23
- Indiana: May 5 primary postponed to June 2
- Kentucky: May 19 primary delayed to June 23
- West Virginia: May 19 delayed to June 9
Are people still in favor of Trump?
As of mid- March, Trump’s approval rating was 45 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval. Time will tell through the coronavirus crisis which Presidential candidate will come out on top.
Many moderate voters who still remained with Trump due to economic issues may change their tune now that the pandemic has tanked the economy.
Protecting the election process
Voting will be further complicated by the issue of delayed and confusing election processes during the pandemic. Voting by mail, waiting in lines in close proximity to other voters, and closed polling places such as retirement homes may cause some issues in who votes as well as in counting the votes.
In order to make sure that each state’s citizens get to vote in their primaries, experts argue that state legislators should make plans now to allow voters to vote by mail, explain the rules well in advance, expand early voting, make applications available online–in other words, make it easier for more people to get their vote cast.
Former Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren said, “Congress must immediately pass much-needed reforms and equip states with the funding they need to protect the health and safety of voters, ensure our elections proceed during this pandemic, and secure our electoral institutions for the long haul.” Senator Warren released a new plan to help protect the election.