Voter turnout for Democratic primaries in Arizona and Florida was estimated to exceed 2016 levels on Tuesday, despite the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Although in-person turnout was low, early voting in Arizona meant that turnout was up from 2016, according to local news. Similarly, election day voting was sparse in Florida, but high early voting resulted in estimates showing overall turnout was slightly above the previous presidential primary.
Illinois was the third state choosing to go ahead with voting on Tuesday despite the pandemic. Overall turnout was significantly down in the state due to very low numbers of people showing up to polling places.
Former Vice President Joe Biden won decisive victories over Senator Bernie Sanders in Florida and Illinois. Results were not yet available in Arizona as of Tuesday night, but early projections in the state also indicated Biden was likely to win.
Ohio had been scheduled to vote as well, but on Monday postponed the primary until July 2 over public health concerns. Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana have also postponed their primaries due to the virus.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine called allowing voting to go forward an “unacceptable health risk” when announcing on Twitter Monday night that health officials in the state would be stepping in to call of the primary.
“During this time when we face an unprecedented public health crisis, to conduct an election tomorrow would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus,” tweeted DeWine.
Officials in Arizona said they decided to go ahead on Tuesday because the pandemic has resulted in an uncertain future.
“We have no guarantee that there will be a safer time to hold this election in the future,” said Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs during a press conference.
Biden appears to have all but sealed victory in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination but the chaos the country has been thrown into due to COVID-19 appeared to be a far bigger concern than the election for both candidates.
“Tackling this pandemic is a national emergency, akin to fighting a war. It’s going to require leadership and cooperation from every area of government,” said Biden in a victory speech conducted from his home in Wilmington, Delaware.
Sanders said the threat posed by the pandemic was “on the scale of a major war.” He also did not do much to encourage voters to go to the polls in a Twitter post earlier in the day, while encouraging those that did to seek guidance from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“While Arizona, Florida and Illinois are still voting today, going to the polls amid the coronavirus outbreak is a personal decision and we respect whichever choice voters make. If you do go to the polls, please see CDC guidance on keeping yourself safe,” tweeted Sanders.