March 20, 2020 | From The Washington Times
Voters heading to the polls in Illinois, Florida and Arizona on Tuesday were greeted with unexpected closures and delays — as well as sightings of protective masks and hand sanitizers — as they tried to navigate their presidential primaries amid the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak.
As you pray about coronavirus disruptions, pray also for our elections this year.
Election officials had expressed confidence heading into Tuesday that they could hold primaries while simultaneously advising voters to be smart about personal hygiene and “social distancing” in polling lines, but Illinois and Florida reported early problems.
“It has been a hectic and trying day,” said Jay Young, executive director of the advocacy group Common Cause Illinois. “We immediately began seeing problems principally around polling places where election judges had chosen not to show.”
Ohio abruptly postponed in-person voting that was scheduled for Tuesday, with Gov. Mike DeWine blowing past a judge’s ruling Monday evening to invoke a state health emergency and push the election to June 2.
A spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners on Tuesday said they asked Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week to cancel in-person voting and switch completely to voting by mail after the World Health Organization classified the coronavirus as a pandemic, but the governor’s office declined.
“It was a snowball we could all see coming down the hill,” Jim Allen, the spokesman, told reporters.
Mr. Pritzker pushed back against Mr. Allen’s contention, saying their offers to provide the National Guard and other volunteers were rebuffed.
“[It’s] times like these when the constitutional boundaries of our democracy should be respected above all else,” the governor said. “If people want to criticize me for that, well, go ahead. I’ll wear it like a badge of honor.”
A spokeswoman for the governor had said earlier that there are no perfect solutions at the moment — only “least bad solutions.”
As it stood, voters Tuesday were being turned away at some locations, including in Cook County, because of a lack of election judges.
Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough posted a picture on social media of blue painters tape with instructions for poll workers to try to mark the floor and keep voters at least six feet apart.
Dan Kovats, executive director of the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association, said turnout was “very low” but that voting were proceeding.
“We had some election judges call off, but county clerks have done a good job with having reserve judges ready to deploy as needed,” he said. “There have been some issues in Chicago but these issues are similar to a standard Election Day.”
Officials in the three states were hoping that a surge in early voting and vote by mail would make up for lower in-person turnout, with both voters and poll workers wary of getting crosswise with national guidance to avoid large crowds to try to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s campaign issued a memo before the polls closed Tuesday estimating that turnout in Florida and Arizona would be about on pace with 2016 and that Illinois’ turnout would be about in line with 2018 levels. . .
(Excerpt from The Washington Times. Article by David Sherfinkski and Alex Swoyer.)