By Jim Ellis
May 21, 2020 — With so many early primary states moving their elections to June due to the coronavirus shut down, no less than 24 states will hold their nominating event in the upcoming month, making this the most active primary month during the election cycle.
A dozen of the states are still observing their regular political calendar, but 12 more moved into June from earlier dates. Therefore, the following adjusted calendar has been locked into place:
• Connecticut (presidential only)
• Idaho (from May 19; though mail voting began on the original primary day)
• Indiana (from May 5)
• Maryland (from April 28)
• New Mexico
• Pennsylvania (from April 28)
• Rhode Island (presidential only)
• South Dakota
• West Virginia (from May 12)
• Georgia (from May 19)
• North Dakota
• South Carolina
• Louisiana (presidential only)
• Kentucky (from May 19)
• Mississippi (run-off elections – moved from March 31)
• New York (regular primary, but moved stand-alone presidential from April 28)
• North Carolina (run-off elections – moved from May 12)
• South Carolina (runoffs)
• Virginia – (moved from June 9 for districts that chose primary over convention)
The schedule is not the only thing many states are changing, as several voting systems have also been altered. With currently 20 states adjusting at least their primary election to an all-mail format or giving every voter the option of submitting their ballot via the postal service, and activist groups clamoring for additional changes, the way Americans vote is changing in 2020 at least for the primary season.
Activist groups are advocating for same-day voter registration and allowing mail ballots to be postmarked on Election Day, in addition to stretching the newly adopted systems to also apply to the general election and possibly beyond. Furthermore, they are attempting to persuade the courts to order ballot harvesting, the act of allowing any individual to gather ballots from voters and turn them into election authorities. In most instances, the expansion of mail voting options has occurred.
During last week, however, two states took a step back. Though the Alaska legislature and governor passed and signed into law legislation giving the state’s chief elections officer, in their case, the lieutenant governor, the option of converting the election to all-mail, the regular process won’t change. Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R), citing his concern over a lack of voter verification in the all-mail law, rejected changing from the regular system.
Additionally, the Texas state Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that would have allowed everyone to vote absentee without an excuse. Therefore, unless federal plaintiffs win their cases, the Texas voting system for the July 14 runoff elections will be administered in typical fashion.
The state of Oregon has administered all-mail elections since first doing so in 2000, so there was no reason to alter the state’s voting system or change the primary date. Therefore, voting envelopes were opened last night as originally planned and counting around the state commenced.
The Oregon primary produced a less than inspiring performance for former vice president Joe Biden, however. The latest available numbers show, with well over two-thirds of the received ballots counted, that Biden will likely not even finish with 68 percent of the Democratic vote even though the individuals still listed on the primary ballot, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have long since exited the race. In Multnomah County, the state’s largest domain that houses the city of Portland, Biden did not even reach 60 percent support.
This contrasts with President Trump receiving almost 94 percent in the Republican primary. All other virtually uncontested Democratic incumbents easily topped at least 81 percent in comparison. The one incumbent who had a more competitive primary challenge, 5th District US Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Canby/Salem), who faced local Mayor Mark Gamba, was re-nominated with just over 70 percent support.
The most notable nomination battle on the primary ballot occurred in the state’s lone Republican district, the seat from which veteran Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) is retiring after serving what will be 22 years in the House. In an 11-person primary, former state senator, Cliff Bentz, defeated 2018 gubernatorial nominee Knute Buehler, among the nine others, to win the GOP primary. He now becomes prohibitive favorite to claim the expansive eastern-state congressional district in November.