It’s Tuesday, March 17. Voters in Arizona, Illinois, and Florida went to the polls today, despite public-health experts’ concerns.
In the rest of today’s newsletter: Managing the voting booth in the time of a pandemic. Plus: COVID-19 cases have been reported in all 50 states—here’s one writer, a former U.S. navy pilot, on how to prepare for the worst.
« TODAY IN POLITICS »
(JAYME GERSHEN / BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY)
This is what democracy looks like: lines in public spaces, people in close quarters, fingers touching the same papers, touching the same screens, volunteers and paid workers—many elderly—interacting with strangers.
In other words, what’s good for democracy is bad for the severe people-to-people distancing required to keep the COVID-19 outbreak from overwhelming hospital systems.
Elaine Godfrey turned to health experts, state election officials, and poll workers themselves to understand what happens when an immovable election meets an unstoppable pandemic. What happens if poll workers don’t show up? Is it a health risk to vote in person? Why can’t states turn to mail-in ballots right away? The answers are, understandably, complicated.
These problems are likely to get worse as the primary season wears on. “We’re going to see a lot more disease over the next few weeks,” said Crystal Watson, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “If leaders can consider other methods to vote, as well as postponing these primaries, that is definitely worth considering.” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, for example, recently introduced legislation that would allow all Americans to vote by mail ahead of the general election. And states voting later in the spring will have more flexibility to extend their absentee-voting deadlines and relax their early-voting rules.