Elections get put on hold for no one and nothing — not even the current COVID-19 pandemic. Now, amid a heated presidential election, two Democratic contenders are vying for votes in what is being referred to as "Super Tuesday 2." On Tuesday, six state primaries will take place in Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington that will include Democratic presidential votes for either former Vice President Joe Biden or Senator Bernie Sanders. As a whole, there are 352 delegates at stake here. But, surmounting fears of the spreading coronavirus anticipate an impact on voter turnout.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 is spread through close contact (being within 6 feet of someone), bodily fluids, or through the air, new cases show. Because of the current lack of a vaccine for the new coronavirus strain and confusing information being spread, panic has ensued many places.
But how might that affect the election? Voters who are feeling extremely cautious or panicked about the coronavirus might feel unsafe entering a totally confined, crowded space with little space from other people, using pens and voting equipment that’s been touched by so many other people. While hand sanitizer, washing hands, and keeping on top of hygiene is certainly a solution, widespread fear and fear mongering is having many people second-guessing leaving the house.
On Super Tuesday, officials from California and Texas reported that poll workers weren’t showing up for their duties, citing fears of coronavirus. In this week’s primaries, only two of the states voting currently have any confirmed coronaviruses at all. Washington is currently reporting 100 cases, with 19 deaths from the illness, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Idaho has no reported cases currently and those in the state are at little to no risk.
Michigan, the state with the most delegates up for grabs, has no reported cases either, along with Mississippi and North Dakota. Missouri currently has one confirmed case and is testing for more, but the Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said the government’s recommendation to the public at large is to “get out and vote” and that it will be safe because they’re used to having elections during flu season, anyway.
Currently, there are over 700 reported cases of coronavirus in the U.S., with hundreds of thousands affected overseas. Now, as the CDC recommends social distancing and large-scale gatherings like SXSW are being shut down out of precaution, electoral politics may be at risk of losing voters more than ever before. While many states have alternative voting solutions like mail-in ballots, many only provide in-person ballots on election days, which could pose a problem with CDC-recommended isolation efforts in the U.S.
Before Super Tuesday, there were concerns about coronavirus and its effects on voter turnout -- since, poll numbers did show that there was a lack of voter turnout in many primary-voting states, though it's unconfirmed if this was a result of voter suppression, long lines, or pandemic panic.
Although Tuesday's polling places are reportedly providing sanitizers and Clorox wipes, officials stated that postponing voting is definitely not an option. "It really comes down to trying to find alternative methods to executing an election," Idaho chief deputy secretary of state Chad Houck said in the Washington Post. "And those conversations are definitely happening.”