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What happens to voting as coronavirus spreads? Here’s what to know about primaries

Several states have presidential primary elections coming up, but as the coronavirus continues to spread, some states might be making changes.

More than 1,600 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed nationally as of Friday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On the same day, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic, McClatchy News reported.

Several states and cities have initiated bans on the number of people who can participate in a group event, and numerous sporting events, theme parks and other events have been shut down.

With coronavirus spreading, how will America’s primaries be impacted?

Four states — Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Illinois — have primaries planned for March 17, and 17 more primaries are scheduled through May.

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Coronavirus, however, could change the way primaries are run .

Election officials in those four states issued a joint news release that said they “are working closely with our state health officials to ensure that our poll workers and voters can be confident that voting is safe. ”

“Unlike concerts, sporting events or other mass gatherings where large groups of people travel long distances to congregate in a confined space for an extended period of time, p olling locations see people from a nearby community coming into and out of the building for a short duration,” the officials said in the release .

States that have primary elections or caucuses next month , however, have started to make changes.

In Wyoming, which planned to vote on April 4, the Democratic Party has canceled the in-person portion of their caucus because of the coronavirus, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. The caucus will now be handled exclusively over mail.

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“We’ll keep watching what other people are doing, watching what public health is doing and what they’re recommending,” communications director Nina Hebert told the Star-Tribune Thursday. “But for now, people can drop off their ballots on (March 28) and (April 4) and have them postmarked by (March 20).”

Wyoming reported its first coronavirus case on March 11, according to the newspaper.

Louisiana, where the presidential primary election was also scheduled for April 4, pushed its election back to June 20 to slow the spread of coronavirus, according to The Advocate. The state has 33 presumptive positive coronavirus cases, according to Louisiana health officials.

“We’re one of the few states that is supposed to have an election in early April, which we think could potentially be the height of some of this in Louisiana,” Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for the governor, told The Advocate. “Our poll workers are by large elderly, over the age of 70, and we think it is unsafe for them to be monitoring the election. We don’t think we would have enough poll workers ... and we think we should be discouraging people from congregating in that way.”

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