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17 Mar, 2020 22:07

Voters smell a rat as coronavirus-soaked primaries unfold in Illinois, Arizona & Florida… but they don’t want them canceled either

Voters smell a rat as coronavirus-soaked primaries unfold in Illinois, Arizona & Florida… but they don’t want them canceled either

Democratic primary voters are calling out perceived rigging, from a TV station appearing to call the vote a day early to Ohio’s decision to cancel it entirely. Others think forcing citizens to vote mid-epidemic is itself rigging.

The Democratic National Committee’s decision to go ahead with state primaries despite the raging coronavirus epidemic – directly contravening advice from the Centers for Disease Control to avoid gatherings of 50 or more people – had progressive voters, suspecting efforts to rig the contest in favor of establishment favorite Joe Biden, up in arms on Tuesday. As residents of three of the four states initially scheduled to vote headed to the polls, those suspicions multiplied.

Also on rt.com Coronavirus is coming, hide the ballots! Calls to cancel campaigns & voting erode already-thin trust in US primaries

Illinois voters determined to brave the epidemic found closed polling places, broken machines, a dearth of volunteers, and long lines. Those few election volunteers who did show up reported waiting hours for much-needed supplies and were forced to redirect the scarce voters to other locations, where delays piled up.

Even some of the lucky few who were able to vote by mail complained they did not receive their ballots – but most didn’t even have that option.

Chicago election officials told reporters they had tried to switch to mail-in ballots, concerned about catching and spreading the coronavirus, but were stonewalled by Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, a Democrat who endorsed Biden the day before the primary. Some polling places were moved at the last minute, and others took place in the senior homes where they were originally scheduled – putting the buildings’ inhabitants at risk. Citywide participation reflected “some of the lowest voter turnout numbers in recent memory,” according to local media.

But that state’s voters were already crying foul the day before the primary, pointing to local TV station WCIA’s oddly specific “mistake” in broadcasting a graphic of vote results – before anyone had voted – that showed Biden neatly beating Sanders by five percentage points.

While the station insisted it was an honest mistake – a mere “graphics test” that accidentally went live – Sanders supporters pointed out the county used as a “test” had voted overwhelmingly for the Vermont senator in 2016, and highlighted the absurdity that the “random numbers” typically picked for such tests would line up so perfectly with a plausible electoral result.

Florida Democrats braved the coronavirus to go out and vote, only to encounter the same issues as their countrymen up north: polling places unexpectedly closed and few voters willing to risk their lives to exercise their franchise. Some 762 poll workers reportedly went AWOL at their hour of need, leaving sites understaffed or completely unmanned. Many argued that, as the retirement capital of America, Florida in particular was putting residents at risk by holding primaries, given the coronavirus’ especially deadly effects on the elderly.

Arizona’s Maricopa County had tried to justify closing 80 polling places – a third of its total sites – to prevent the spread of coronavirus, even though the move would force more voters into the remaining locations, effectively increasing crowds and thereby upping the risk of viral transmission. Adding to the general weirdness, a Maricopa County election official inexplicably appeared to give up in the middle of a press conference announcing the change, muttering “I’m sorry, I can’t do this” and walking offstage.

Some insisted that holding an in-person primary at all while state and health authorities were warning everyone to stay home to avoid a potentially fatal disease was tantamount to “rigging” – or at least cheering on the coronavirus.

But when Ohio managed to postpone its own primary at the last minute through some questionable maneuvering, that move triggered protests as well. After Ohio Governor Mike DeWine unsuccessfully sued to have the state’s primary postponed, state health department director Amy Acton – the same doctor who enjoyed brief viral infamy last week after speculating that her state’s five (at the time) diagnosed cases of Covid-19 hid some 100,000 undiagnosed cases – stepped in to close all polling locations for health reasons on Monday. The eleventh-hour order cited coronavirus infection risk to poll workers and voters.

The Ohio secretary of state is back in court wrangling a new polling date – DeWine initially requested June 2 – but more than a few eyebrows have been raised at the extralegal maneuver, and many have demanded a mail-in vote.

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