By John Whitesides
(Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically reshaped the Democratic presidential nominating calendar, forcing many states to curtail in-person voting or delay primary contests to May or June in an attempt to limit the health risks.
As a result, April will be a lighter month than expected in the race to pick a challenger to Republican President Donald Trump for the November general election. The outbreak has knocked Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and rival Bernie Sanders off the campaign trail in recent weeks.
Three states with contests originally scheduled on Saturday – Hawaii, Alaska and Wyoming – eliminated in-person voting and extended the deadlines for voting by mail. Hawaii gave voters until May 22 to return ballots.
Here is a look at the presidential primaries still slated for April:
WISCONSIN – Despite a flurry of lawsuits seeking a delay or expanded options for registration and absentee voting, Wisconsin plans to move ahead with its primary on April 7. The state also will hold a general election for some state and local offices that day. Voters have been encouraged to cast absentee ballots, but the state still will have in-person voting sites. Democratic Governor Tony Evers asked the Republican-controlled state legislature last week to pass a bill to send an absentee ballot to every registered voter, but Republicans said that was not feasible given the short timeline.
ALASKA – State Democrats canceled Saturday’s in-person primary voting and extended the deadline to return ballots by mail. Ballots now must be received by April 10 to be counted. Results are expected to be released on April 11.
WYOMING – Democrats in Wyoming also canceled their original Saturday in-person primary voting and extended the deadline to return mailed ballots, which now must be received by April 17. The party will try to release results within 48 hours of that deadline, a spokeswoman said.
PUERTO RICO – Governor Wanda Vazquez signed a resolution passed by the state legislature pushing the territory’s Democratic primary back from March 29 to April 26. Under the resolution, the local party and election officials have the authority to delay the primary even more if the coronavirus crisis continues.
OHIO – Ohio pushed back its March 17 primary over concerns about the coronavirus, setting a new date of April 28 for a primary conducted almost completely by mail. Only voters who are disabled or who do not have a permanent address will be allowed to vote in person on April 28. Other registered voters will need to cast an absentee ballot that must be postmarked by April 27. Legal and voting rights groups have filed a lawsuit contending the process does not allow enough time to complete the steps needed to cast a ballot and will keep thousands of eligible voters from doing so.
(Reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis)