In a matter of months, the novel coronavirus has seemingly upended all aspects of daily life. We’re spending our days traveling from our living rooms to our kitchens and back again, occasionally punctuated by a short walk outside or a quick trip to the grocery store. Sports are canceled, concerts are unthinkable, and even school and work are happening within the confines of our homes.
But 2020 is not just the year that the world was ravaged by a new pandemic—it’s also an important year for United States politics. Fairly soon, we will be voting on a new president, 35 Senate seats, and all seats in the House of Representatives. There are essential local races happening across the country, not to mention primary elections that must occur before November. And in light of the new coronavirus, voting for the elected officials that lead the country, and your community, seems more important than ever. But how will it all happen—and what has already changed? Below, a guide to how the new coronavirus is affecting the 2020 elections.
How has the pandemic affected presidential primary elections?
As states focuses on the health and safety of constituents, the decision of how and when to hold primaries has become a complicated one. College students have left the state; poll workers, who are typically over 61 years old, need to be replaced; voting sites at senior homes need to be relocated. As Vox reports, “The greater fear is that those who show up risk exposing themselves to coronavirus, especially if they have to wait in line for long periods.”
- Alaska: previously April 4, now April 10
- Connecticut: previously April 28, now June 2
- Georgia: previously March 24, now May 19
- Hawaii: previously April 4, now late May
- Indiana: previously May 5, now June 2
- Louisiana: previously April 4, now June 20
- Kentucky: previously May 19, now June 23
- Maryland: previously April 28, now June 2
- Ohio: previously March 17, now June 2
- Puerto Rico: previously March 29, now April 26
- Rhode Island: previously April 28, now June 2
- Wyoming: previously April 4, now April 17
According to the New York Times, the Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez has urged states who still need to hold elections to expand voting by mail, no-excuse absentee voting, early voting, and curbside ballot drop-offs. While the DNC’s deadline for states to hold nominating contests is technically June 9, a few states have scheduled primaries for beyond that date. Politico reports that a spokesperson from the DNC responded to the date changes earlier this month, saying, “We will continue to work with every state party as they adjust their delegate selection plans around coronavirus…Any violation of our rules could result in a penalty that would include a state losing at least half of its delegates. This change will be reviewed by the Rules and Bylaws Committee.”
Is it possible to vote without leaving my house?
Yes! Though deadlines and regulations vary from state to state, many have alternative means of voting, including mail-in voting and early voting, where you can vote in person before the official primary and therefore avoid crowds. On Vote.org, you can find your state’s absentee ballot deadline and early voting calendar, as well as resources pertaining to your state’s COVID-19 election information.
While it’s ultimately a state-by-state decision, according to NPR, some are considering whether to send mail-in ballots to every voter for contests in April. Senators Ron Wyden and Amy Klobuchar (whose husband has the novel coronavirus) have introduced new legislation, called the National Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act, intended to expand mail-in voting and early voting. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, the two senators wrote: “Our legislation will guarantee every voter a secure mail-in paper ballot and help states cover the cost of printing, self-sealing envelopes, ballot tracking and postage.”
How else is the novel coronavirus affecting the 2020 election cycle?
As expected, the coronavirus has impacted how state and local candidates are currently campaigning: NPR reports candidate are no longer able to go door-to-door to canvass or get the signatures they need to get on a ballot; there are no in-person fundraisers or events; people who previously pledged to donate might now be out of a job. It can be difficult to connect with people when everyone is separated—and even more difficult when many are focused on the safety of their family, not on some seemingly far-off election.
The 2020 presidential election has also been altered: In the last Democratic debate, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders debated six feet apart and without a live audience. The two candidates have also had to stop in-person rallies and events and go virtual instead. On the other side of the aisle, President Trump is being closely watched as he leads the country, and deals with the faltering economy, during the outbreak. While it’s unclear how long we’ll be self-isolating, it’s safe to assume the new coronavirus has already affected the 2020 election in irrevocable ways.