Despite COVID-19-related quarantines and widespread social distancing, Democratic presidential primaries went ahead today in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois, with 441 delegates up for grabs.
Once again, former vice president Joe Biden won the day, with overwhelming victories in all three states. Although final numbers are still to come, Biden shows a massive 39% lead in Florida, a 23% edge in Illinois, and a very comfortable 12% margin in Arizona.
Ohio, which was also scheduled to vote today, last night postponed its primary after its state Department of Health ordered polls closed due to the ongoing health emergency. The Ohio primary, with its total of 136 delegates, is now re-scheduled for June 2.
Going into today’s contests, Biden was leading Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, 871 delegates to 719. Although tonight’s tally is still pending, Biden will clearly win a lion’s share of today’s delegates, advancing not only his overall total but his lead over Sanders.
While the eventual Democratic nominee has not technically been decided at this point—there are still 1,532 delegates to be won in pending primaries—the numerical gap between the two candidates has been accelerating since the beginning of the month, and continues to widen. Biden’s campaign has been enjoying a huge surge of momentum, and is quickly approaching an insurmountable lead.
Just how long the primary season will continue, however, remains to be seen. With COVID-19 upending daily life, four more primaries have so far been rescheduled along with Ohio: Louisiana from April 4 to July 25, Georgia from March 24 to May 19, Maryland from April 28 to June 2, and Kentucky from May 19 to June 23. Likely, more states and territories will follow suit.
As for the three states which went to the polls today, there was a scramble to field enough poll workers. And, even though early anecdotal evidence indicated low voter turnout, it still turned out to be an election day like no other.
In Chicago poll workers prepared by marking off line-up areas in 2-metre increments with blue tape, in order to maintain social distancing. Supervisors for Maricopa County—seat of Arizona’s state capital, Phoenix—had to reduce the number of polling places from 229 to 151, due to a shortage of cleaning supplies and disinfectants. And in Florida, emergency provisions allowed voters to designate someone to pick up and bring their ballot to them to mark up, then return it to the polling place.
Today’s balloting ends a particularly busy time in the primary schedule; the only remaining primary still planned for this month is in Puerto Rico, on March 29.