COVID-19 pandemic didn’t diminish voter turnout in March 17 primaries

By Julia Schneider

Online school, take-out only restaurants, no sports, yet somehow the primaries in three states still prevailed.

Following the precedent set by the flu pandemic of 1918 and World War II, voters in Illinois, Florida and Arizona defied the historic quarantine to exercise their right to vote. Despite a national panic ensuing, the primaries in these states, excluding the postponed Ohio primary, exuded unexpected results.

In 2016, the Illinois Democratic primary held on March 15 saw 2,056,047 votes with Hillary Clinton edging out Bernie Sanders by 1.95%. This year, with 99% reporting, the state of Illinois had 1,541,097 votes.

The Arizona Democratic primary saw little change from its 2016 turnout. Actually, with 88% reporting, 531,316 votes were counted compared to 466,235 in 2016. Florida’s Democratic primary mirrored this. With 99% reporting, 1,734,701 votes were counted inching out the 1,709,183 votes counted in the 2016 Democratic primary.

The Ohio primary did not follow this same robust parallel. With an order coming from Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, all polling stations in the states were to be closed on March 17. The action remains in effect until the State of Emergency is lifted or she herself makes a modification to the order.

The Ohio primary’s chaos did not stop here. Earlier this week, the Franklin County Court of Common Please denied officials’ request to move the primary to June. The following day, Ohio’s Supreme Court rejected this same appeal. Due to this motion’s denial, great uncertainty remains as to how or when Ohio voters will vote. In a time of pandemonium, only time will tell what will occur.  

Though Illinois’ primary experienced a 25% drop in voters, voters in Arizona and Ohio did not appear deterred by the coronavirus and showed an increase in voter turnout. Ironically, voters may have had an easier time reaching the polls this year because of workplaces, restaurants and other meeting places being shut down.

Julia Schneider is a student in a Media and Democracy class at St. Bonaventure University.

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