Louisiana will postpone its presidential primaries set for next month, becoming the first state to take the step as fears about the coronavirus outbreak spread.
The state will push its presidential nominating contests back to June 20 from the planned date of April 4, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced Friday. It has also delayed its municipal elections until July 25.
“We want to protect the health and safety of all Louisianans by doing our part to prevent the spread of this highly infectious disease,” Ardoin told reporters.
Louisiana’s move to delay the primaries, and its allocation of 54 pledged delegates in the Democratic race, underscores the widespread havoc the global pandemic has wreaked on American life and institutions. The outbreak has ground pivotal 2020 presidential campaign operations to a near halt. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the leading Democratic candidates to take on President Donald Trump in November, have temporarily stopped large, in-person campaign events to curb the coronavirus disease’s transmission.
The one-on-one debate between Biden and Sanders will take place in Washington on Sunday with no live audience. It was initially set to take place in Arizona with a crowd in attendance.
It is unclear now whether any of the other states voting next month, including New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland, will follow Louisiana’s lead.
Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio, which hold primaries and award a trove of pledged delegates on Tuesday, have moved forward with their election events as planned. Some states have encouraged more voters to cast absentee or mail-in ballots to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
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