Voting in Democratic primaries goes ahead in 4 US states
MIAMI: Millions of Americans trooped to polling stations yesterday in four states despite the coronavirus pandemic bringing anxiety and uncertainty to the nation's Democratic primaries.
Campaigning has shifted from mass rallies to online events, candidate debates are audience-free and some states have postponed primaries.
Democrats are in the midst of choosing a nominee who will challenge Republican President Donald Trump in November's election. But doubts have undercut the process.
As Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio gear up to vote, there was confusion about whether polling stations would be safe. The White House has advised against groups of 10 people or more.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine complicated the process in his state on Monday when he recommended a 10-week postponement of the primary.
But a lawsuit to delay the vote was rejected by an Ohio judge, local media reported.
Mr DeWine appeared to be a lone official voice calling for delay, and he failed to win support from Mr Trump, who said it was "up to the states" but that "postponing is unnecessary".
The vote could be undermined in part by a potential scare factor for the elderly, the constituency at highest risk.
Officials in Florida, the state with the most delegates in play, said they are pulling out all the stops to keep the process safe.
Former US vice-president Joe Biden tops polling by significant margins in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio against his rival, Senator Bernie Sanders.
Meanwhile, millions of Americans are staying home from work or school as the country implements emergency measures against a growing crisis.
Kentucky, originally due to vote in May, on Monday announced a delay in its primary until June, while Georgia, which was to vote on March 24, is delaying its primary until May. Louisiana had earlier postponed its April 4 election to June 20.
Both candidates will campaign exclusively online for now, a scenario unheard of at the height of a US presidential primary battle.
They are taking full precautions: they are washing hands frequently and employees are working from home.
Mr Sanders hosted a "digital rally" on Monday featuring high-profile supporters, including veteran rocker Neil Young.
Mr Sanders said the pandemic served as an example of why Americans would be better served by a universal healthcare system. - AFP