Rhode Island postpones primaries and Alaska Democrats cancel in-person voting due to coronavirus

Rhode Island postpones primaries and Alaska Democrats cancel in-person voting due to coronavirus

Rhode Island and Alaska on Monday became the latest states to make changes to their presidential primaries amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order on Monday moving the Democratic and Republican presidential primary elections from April 28 to June 2. The order said the state board of elections would determine a “predominantly mail ballot” primary.

“The Rhode Island Department of Health shall advise the Board on any public health concerns that may arise with respect to voting practices involving person-to-person contact,” the order read.

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said in a statement, “A predominantly mail ballot election will ensure that all eligible Rhode Islanders can cast a ballot in a safe and secure manner while protecting the integrity of every vote. Our first step in the coming weeks will be to send all registered voters a mail ballot application with a postage-paid return envelope.”

“Last week, in my testimony to the Board of Elections, I recommended that the Board of Elections and I co-chair a diverse statewide task force that can help broker solutions ensuring we do not unintentionally disenfranchise any portion of our electorate,” Gorbea said. “My office will work proactively and collaboratively with the Board of Elections and local boards of canvassers to hold a fair and secure election on June 2.”

Also Monday, the Alaska Democratic Party moved its party-run primary to all vote by mail, getting rid of all in-person voting.

“All in-person voting across the state originally scheduled for April 4 has been canceled in favor of a more extensive vote-by-mail process approved unanimously by the Alaska Democratic Party Executive Committee,” a Facebook post by Alaska Democrats read. The deadline to vote by mail was extended from March 24 to April 10.

The executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party, Lindsay Kavanaugh, said in a statement, “The Alaska Democratic Party has already mailed ballots to over 71,000 registered Democrats across the state, seven times the number of people that participated in the 2016 caucuses. We want to continue to allow for maximum participation in this historic primary while respecting the health and safety of our voters and volunteers.”

The Alaska Republican Party also said its Republican state convention, which is scheduled to take place from April 2 to April 4, would convene electronically.

“In light of recent announcements from Governor Mike Dunleavy, Dr. Anne Zink, and changing CDC advice about the COVID19 virus, the Alaska Republican Party State Central Committee meeting will convene electronically as scheduled on April 2,” a statement from Alaska Republicans reads. “Thereafter, beginning on April 3, the State Convention will convene electronically.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended that no gatherings with 50 people or more take place for the next eight weeks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The next day, the White House advised Americans to avoid groups of more than 10 and urged older people to stay at home altogether in a set of new guidelines.