Experts say officials need a 'plan B' for the 2020 elections in case the coronavirus continues to spread in the US
If the Wuhan coronavirus continues to spread in the US, it has the potential to disrupt the primaries and general election. The virus could alter the candidates' plans to hold campaign rallies and conventions. State governments and Democratic parties haven't announced any plans to change voting procedures or otherwise respond to the potential spread of the disease. "The important thing now, before any disaster hits, is for election officials to come up with a 'Plan B' in the event of a pandemic," Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at UC Irvine, told Insider. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
While just 60 people in the US have been diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus, officials are warning the disease will likely "spread widely" in the US — a reality that could disrupt upcoming elections. American health authorities announced Tuesday that the spread of the virus in the US is inevitable and that hospitals, schools, and businesses should begin preparing for a wider outbreak. Preparations should include "social distancing" measures, or minimizing contact between people to stem the spread of the virus. "It's not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on Tuesday. US election experts say the virus could have potentially far-reaching impacts on the primaries and general election if it prevents the president and his Democratic opponents from holding campaign rallies, disrupts the parties' conventions in July and August, and depresses turnout on election day. Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at UC Irvine, argued that states and localities need a "plan B" for election day. "The important thing now, before any disaster hits, is for election officials to come up with a 'Plan B' in the event of a pandemic," Hasen told Insider. "The plan should explain how voting might occur under conditions of quarantine or other safety measures." But US elections are largely controlled and administered by individual states, the vast majority of which conduct all of their voting in person at polling places. The Democratic National Committee hasn't made public any plan it might have to deal with potentially disruptive impacts if the virus continues to spread in the US. "Our number one concern is to ensure all eligible voters are able to make their voices heard without jeopardizing anyone's health and safety," Maya Hixson, a DNC spokesperson, told Insider. "We will continue to closely monitor as the situation develops." State governments and Democratic parties haven't announced any plans to change voting procedures or otherwise respond to the potential spread of the disease. Some state Democratic parties conceded they hadn't even considered the possibility of a disruption. "To tell you the truth, we haven't thought about any contingency plans for this," Matthew Patterson, the executive director of Utah's Democratic Party, told Insider. "We do have people working [against] disinformation campaigns to make sure people aren't dissuaded from voting through false information ... but in terms of natural disasters, we really haven't discussed that." Patterson added that he expects higher turnout this year than in previous elections, and he'd encourage Utahns to vote by mail.
Jon Stokes, the co-founder of tech news site Ars Technica, argued in a Monday column for Wired that all states should immediately move to a vote-by-mail system for the general election, with funding help from Congress. Only 25 states currently have some form of mail-in voting. "If we don't quickly harden our election infrastructure against the imminent threat of coronavirus, we risk electoral chaos and a crisis of governance on a scale that our foreign adversaries couldn't even dream of instigating via even the most sophisticated electronic election-meddling efforts," Stokes wrote. Other countries are already feeling the effects of the coronavirus' political impact. Iran held parliamentary elections last Friday and voter turnout was the lowest since 1979, according to the government. 'We are not just fighting to contain a virus and save lives' Some public health experts aren't ready to predict the virus will impact the 2020 elections. Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said it's "too early" to know whether the coronavirus will have any impact on how Americans vote this year. "One of the measures that's taken if you have spread of a novel virus, a novel respiratory airborne virus like this one, is to avoid large public gathering," Konyndyk, who directed USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance during the Ebola outbreak, told Insider. "A polling place is not necessarily a packed environment in the way a movie theater is." There is no cure for COVID-19, and no vaccine yet either, though scientists in the US at the National Institutes of Health say one could be ready for testing within months. The best preventative measure is thorough, regular hand-washing. While relatively little is known as of yet about how the coronavirus spreads, it can be transmitted through close human-to-human contact, including within households and in crowded places. The World Health Organization announced on Wednesday that, for the first time, more cases of the virus were diagnosed outside China, where it originated, than inside the country. "All countries, whether they have cases or not, must prepare for a potential pandemic," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday. "We are not just fighting to contain a virus and save lives. We are also in a fight to contain the social and economic damage a global pandemic could do." Hilary Brueck and John Haltiwanger contributed to this report. SEE ALSO: Trump is facing bipartisan backlash for his handling of the coronavirus' spread in the US as the CDC warns 'this might be bad' Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Extremists turned a frog meme into a hate symbol, but Hong Kong protesters revived it as an emblem of hope
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A federal judge just ordered New York election officials to restore Bernie Sanders to the presidential primary ballot
A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the New York Board of Elections must hold a...A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the New York Board of Elections must hold a presidential primary election and restore Sen. Bernie Sanders to the ballot. In an unprecedented move, New York canceled its Democratic presidential primary, which was originally scheduled for June 23, amid the coronavirus pandemic. New York District Court Judge Analisa Torres ordered that New York must hold a presidential primary including all 10 candidates who qualified, in response to a lawsuit from former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the New York Board of Elections must hold a presidential primary election and restore Sen. Bernie Sanders and all other presidential candidates who qualified to the ballot. In an unprecedented move, New York canceled its Democratic presidential primary, which was originally scheduled for June 23, amid the coronavirus pandemic. New York District Court Judge Analisa Torres ordered that New York must hold a presidential primary including all 10 presidential candidates who qualified for the ballot, in response to a lawsuit from former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and a number of New Yorkers who planned to attend the 2020 Democratic convention as delegates. The Board of Elections cited the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the dangers to in-person voting it poses in making the decision to cancel the primary. While dozens of states have postponed their primaries, New York is the only state who tried to cancel theirs. While Sanders dropped out of the presidential primary on April 8, he is continuing to stay on the ballot for the rest of the primary cycle and earn delegates towards the convention. "That has effectively ended the real contest for the presidential nomination," New York State Board of Elections Co-Chair Douglas Kellner said in justifying the board's decision to cancel the primary. "And what the Sanders supporters want is essentially a beauty contest that, given the situation with the public health emergency that exists now, seems to be unnecessary and, indeed, frivolous." While New York law requires voters to have a documented excuse to vote absentee, Cuomo essentially waived the requirement by issuing an executive order that adds the risk of getting COVID-19 as a valid excuse. Cuomo also recently announced that the state would send absentee-ballot applications with prepaid postage to registered voters to make it easy as possible for New Yorkers to vote from home. Sanders supporters argued that it made no sense for New York to cancel its primary given that the state is continuing to hold dozens of congressional and state-level primaries and is enacting no-excuse absentee voting for the June election. Judge Torres also agreed that canceling the primary would only marginally benefit public health. "In sum, removing Yang, Sanders, and other candidates from the Democratic primary ballot will protect the public from COVID-19 only to a limited extent," Judge Torres wrote in her decision. "But barring Plaintiffs and Plaintiff-Intervenors from participating in an election for party delegates will sharply curtail their associational rights." In addition to formally selecting a presidential nominee, Democrats convene several important committees at the convention to vote on the party's official platform and policy priorities. For Sanders and his representatives to have a spot on any of those powerful committees, he needs to earn 25% of all pledged delegates allocated throughout the Democratic nomination process. And an inability to compete for any of New York's 274 delegates could be a big blow to his efforts. Sanders' camp blasted the decision as undemocratic and unfair to voters, in addition to violating New York's own delegate selection plan. In an April 27 statement, senior Sanders advisor Jeff Weaver called the BOE's decision "an outrage," and "a blow to American democracy," noting that neither the DNC nor the Biden campaign requested the cancelation. "Given that the primary is months away, the proper response must be to make the election safe – such as going to all vote by mail – rather than to eliminating people's right to vote completely," Weaver said, calling for New York to lose all its delegates if the Board doesn't allow Sanders on the ballot. The Associated Press contributed reporting. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why electric planes haven't taken off yet
The State Board of Elections scrapped the state’s June 23 Democratic nominating contest, citing the risk...The State Board of Elections scrapped the state’s June 23 Democratic nominating contest, citing the risk of spreading coronavirus, in a move opposed by supporters of Bernie Sanders.
South Korea's record turnout for its parliamentary election, despite the coronavirus, offers a blueprint for other...South Korea's record turnout for its parliamentary election, despite the coronavirus, offers a blueprint for other countries.