Louisiana Postpones Presidential Primary Due to Coronavirus

What if states begin postponing elections because of coronavirus fears? Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In what could be a harbinger of things to come, Louisiana is delaying its 2020 presidential primary from April 4 until June 20. The Advocate has the story:

Sec. of State Kyle Ardoin, Republican, and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration said Friday they would use a provision of state law that allows them to move any election in an emergency situation. 

The advanced age of those staffing and participating in the election and their vulnerability to COVID-19 infections was cited as the reason for this unprecedented action:

More than half of the state’s election-day commissioners are 65 or older, and 32 polling locations are in nursing homes or other senior facilities, Ardoin said. He added it was “pretty impossible” to expand mail-in voting to every voter in time for the election, and pointed to the state moving elections in 2005 and 2008 because of hurricanes. 

This action led election officials in states holding presidential primaries next Tuesday to assure the public that they have no plans to do likewise:

But Louisiana’s postponement will likely send officials in other states–and political observers in and beyond the news media and the major parties–scurrying to the statute books to see if it could be emulated elsewhere during either the nominating contests or even the general election. Before you ask, no, the president has no evident authority to postpone a constitutionally mandated federal election short of (and perhaps even including) a civil war. But it’s the states that actually conduct elections, and if the coronavirus crisis lingers, you could see the potential election-delay season edging towards November. Nate Silver thinks Louisiana is setting a really bad example:

One prophylactic measures states could take is to build on existing voting-by-mail options (deemed too difficult in Louisiana because of the proximity of the primary) for both primaries and the general election. But discussions need to begin right now before state election officials sadly disclose they have no choice but to punt democracy into some vague virus-free future.

Louisiana Postpones Presidential Primary Due to Coronavirus