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Primaries to go ahead in U.S. next week despite coronavirus: officials

Louisiana on Friday became the first U.S. state to postpone its presidential nominating contest because of the coronavirus pandemic, while four states holding their primaries next week said those elections would go forward as planned.

The Southern state said it would reschedule voting in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election because of the outbreak. Officials there said they would postpone their scheduled April 4 primary to June 20 “to best protect the health and safety of Louisiana voters and voting officials,” Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said at a news conference.

The four states holding their primaries on Tuesday — Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — said in a joint statement they would proceed with their contests while taking steps to ensure public safety.

“Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past, and, based on the best information we have from public health officials, we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday,” election officials from the four states said.

“We’re definitely voting. They voted during the Civil War. We’re gonna vote,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters on Friday.

Louisiana’s move poses a problem for the Democratic Party, which mandates all nominating contests must be held by early June or states risk losing delegates to the party convention in July.

Kristen Clarke, the president of the voting rights group Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, said the state should have pursued other options, like expanding early and absentee voting.

“The chose the most extreme, drastic option, Clarke said.

Democratic front-runner Joe Biden’s campaign urged states to hold votes as scheduled.

“As election officials working with public health officials are demonstrating throughout the country, our elections can be conducted safely in consultation with public health officials,” said Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager.

Biden and Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, both seeking to challenge Republican President Donald Trump, have taken themselves off the campaign trail for the time being while searching for new, creative ways to connect with voters.

Biden’s attempt to connect with voters via a virtual town hall on Friday was plagued by early technical glitches that delayed its start and made most of his early remarks impossible to understand. The event provided the first glimpse into the challenges of running a virtual campaign.

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