Biden Urges Voters to Go to Polls During Coronavirus Pandemic
“If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or because you have a serious long-term health problem, it is extra important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease,” – Center for Disease Control
With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shutting down swathes of the United States and Europe, primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio are set to take place on Tuesday.
Notably, Ohio and Illinois announced Sunday all bars and restaurants would be closed in the states, and the CDC advised Americans across the country to cancel any event over 50 people.
Many have pointed to the contradiction of taking drastic measures to stem the spread of coronavirus while also holding elections where Americans have to show up in person.
However, former Vice President Joe Biden urged his supporters to go to the polls, “the right to vote is the most sacred American right there is. State election officials are working closely with public health officials to hold safe elections. If you are feeling healthy, not showing symptoms, and not at risk of being exposed to COVID-19: please vote on Tuesday.”
Biden is looking to extend his delegate lead over Senator Bernie Sanders in the delegate, where Biden holds an 890-736 lead with 1,991 needed to win outright.
The former vice president’s call seems to misunderstand the risk of coronavirus spread. It has been known for weeks that people can have coronavirus while showing no symptoms, and recent studies show asymptomatic people are spreading the virus.
Wide-scale voting will endanger the lives of those who are disproportionately vulnerable to the coronavirus, namely the elderly.
In Michigan, a state Biden won by 16.5%, exit polls showed Joe Biden won 70% of the vote of those 65 or older, a group that accounts for 20% of the electorate. Across the primaries, Biden has enjoyed strong support from the elderly.
Perhaps due to fears of depressed turnout amongst the elderly, Biden is risking the lives of his supporters by encouraging them to vote.
In Ohio, health officials estimated the state has 100,000 cases of coronavirus, and the CDC explicitly asks the elderly and those with underlying health problems to avoid crowds as much as possible.
For his part, Sanders said he’s not sure “it makes a lot of sense” to hold the four primaries on Tuesday in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
Polling Place Closures
With coronavirus prevention tactics sweeping the nations, some states have elected to postpone their primary including Louisiana which delayed its primary from April 4 to June 20.
In the four states set to hold primaries on Tuesday, the legitimacy of the result has already been called into question with depressed turnout expected and polling places canceled or moved at the last minute.
Arizona’s Maricopa County, population 4.4 million, eliminated almost 80 polling places because election authorities lacked the proper resources to keep the stations clean.
The Maricopa County Board’s election director Scott Jarrett was unable to handle a press conference to announce the changes and left after saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t do this.”
Unfortunately, on the national level, the direction has not been clearer, and President Trump’s misinformation has not eased concerns.
With all the concern and closures, there seems to be no movement from the four states to postpone or a real recognition of the gravity of the crisis.
A joint statement from the four states argues “unlike concerts, sporting events or other mass gatherings where large groups of people travel long distances to congregate in a confined space for an extended period of time, polling locations see people from a nearby community coming into and out of the building for a short duration.”
But with closures in Arizona, one would expect longer lines, and the statement places no recognition or mention of precautions taken to protect the elderly, who disproportionately show up to vote.
In several months, the American public may wake up to the reality that our state government and politicians like Joe Biden have intentionally underestimated the gravity of the crisis ahead of us.