Inside Politics With Jon Delano: Elections During The Coronavirus Pandemic

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Suppose you held an election and nobody showed up to vote?

That’s a real fear when, in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, everyone is told not to assemble in more than a few numbers anywhere! And this is especially true for those age 60 and over for whom, we are advised, the virus is a deadly risk. Many of those folks are among the most reliable voters, but today they are hunkering down in their homes.

Tuesday, March 17, is election day in four states: Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio. For the Democratic presidential candidates, this “Super Tuesday 3.0” is critical with 577 delegates at stake in some of the nation’s largest states. Former Vice President Joe Biden is hoping for a big sweep, while Senator Bernie Sanders wants to stop Biden’s momentum. How “legitimate” will people consider the results if only a very few voters cast a ballot?

This afternoon, Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio said he is petitioning the Court to allow him to move Ohio’s primary to June 2. Shortly thereafter President Trump opined that he thought it was “unnecessary” to postpone election dates, but that he’d leave that up to the states.

It was no surprise to me that public policy issues with respect to handling coronavirus dominated the first part of the Sunday debate between the two candidates. What did surprise me was that neither one was asked about postponing the elections. Are Biden and Sanders supporters supposed to just “risk it” and vote? It seems a legitimate question.

It’s also important for some voters here in Pennsylvania tomorrow.

We have three state House special elections scheduled in Pennsylvania on March 17. One is back in Bucks County which has been hit hard by coronavirus cases, and two in this region. The 8th Legislative District in northeastern Butler and Mercer Counties and the 58th Legislative District in Westmoreland County are both electing a state representative to replace incumbents who were elected to the judiciary.

Once again, voters are expected to show up and vote. Governor Wolf supported efforts to postpone these specials, at least until the April 28 Pennsylvania Primary, but House Speaker Mike Turzai, who is charged with scheduling special House elections, turned down the request.

Elections officials, especially those in Bucks County, are promising to sanitize voting machines and practice social distancing, and voters are encouraged to bring their own pens.

It’s not just an issue for tomorrow.

Georgia was supposed to vote next week on March 24, but they have postponed their primary until May 19. That leaves Puerto Rico voting on March 29, followed by two early April primaries – April 4 in Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming, and then Wisconsin on April 7. Louisiana was supposed to vote on April 4, but they just moved theirs to June 20.

The biggest April primary is the one that engages us on April 28. Six Northeastern states will vote, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

Governor Wolf said over the weekend it is still too early to know if he will push to postpone that primary to a later date.

Here’s some good news for voters in Pennsylvania. Beginning with the April 28 primary, we now have no-excuse mail-in balloting. Every registered voter may now vote by mail in Pennsylvania from the security of their home. If you are interested in that option, just click here.

Just one final thought. Our democracy depends on you exercising the right to vote. Now that Pennsylvania allows you to vote by mail, the coronavirus is no excuse to skip the primary. Sure, it will take you a few extra steps to vote by mail, but your vote can now count without ever putting your health at risk. Go for it.