States Adjust to New Voting Methods Amid Pandemic

Primary Watch: Biden takes Wyoming and Alaska and DNC Postponed

The 2020 Democratic primary elections push forward amid the coronavirus outbreak, with the remaining states adjusting their contests by implementing safer voting practices per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. The two most recent primaries to take place were Wyoming and Alaska, who both held their contests entirely by mail.

The Wyoming caucuses were originally scheduled to take place on April 4 but were canceled and held using ranked-choice mail-in voting. The ballot drop-off and mail-in due date was originally April 4, but with the threat of COVID-19 and the U.S. being plagued with more and more devastating crises each day, the state removed the ballot drop-off option and changed the caucuses to mail-in-only voting. An extended deadline of April 17 was also provided to allow more voters the opportunity to participate in the primaries.
Former Vice President Joe Biden won the Wyoming Democratic caucuses, gaining 72.2 percent of the vote to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 8 percent. Since suspending his presidential campaign the day after the Winsconsin primaries on April 8, Sanders has endorsed Biden and is planning to continue collecting delegates throughout the remaining primaries, as well as retaining a number of his 938 delegates to lobby for progressive platforms leading up to the Democratic National Convention.

The Alaska Democratic primary was also scheduled to take place on April 4 but moved to April 10, and like Wyoming, canceled all in-person voting, switching to mail-in-only voting. Joe Biden also took Alaska’s Democratic primary by winning 55.3 percent of the vote to 44.7 percent by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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The 2020 Presidential election is also the first time Alaska has held a primary, as the state previously held caucuses and only recently switched to a primary to increase voter participation. “Our goal in converting our system from the caucuses of past presidential elections to a party-run primary was to enfranchise as many Alaska Democrats as possible, particularly in rural communities with limited or no access to caucus locations,” Alaska state party chairwoman Casey Steinau said in a statement.
Also resulting from the coronavirus outbreak, the Democratic National Convention (DNC) originally scheduled for July 13-16 in Milwaukee, Wisc., has been postponed and rescheduled to take place the week of August 17. “In light of the unprecedented health crisis facing our country, the 2020 Democratic National Convention will now be held the week of August 17 in Milwaukee, Wisc. providing our team more time to determine the most appropriate structure for this historic event,” reads a statement on the DNC’s website.

As part of our coverage in TurnOUT: How LGBTQ Organizations Have Mobilized the Community, this project has been supported by the Solutions Journalism Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems, solutionsjournalism.org.

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