The United States is in the middle of the acceleration phase of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this is the period, where the virus infects people and social distancing is crucial to slow the outbreak.

Yet, in a reckless move that defied the concerns of medical professionals, state officials in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois listened to politicians and proceeded with previously scheduled in-person voting in their primaries.

Over 2500 people, including more than 150 medical professionals, signed on to a petition that was sent to state officials. It strongly urged them to extend mail-in voting and reschedule primaries. (Disclosure: I co-organized the petition, which was sent to state officials.)

Multiple states postponed their primaries before in-person voting took place on March 17. Rather than respect the fact that states were trying to protect the health of voters and poll workers, the Democratic National Committee threatened states with the loss of delegates if they did not hold their primaries before June 9.

On March 16, Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton, the state’s health department director, showed leadership and declared polling places a health emergency risk. They postponed in-person voting until June. The Ohio Democratic Party sued the state the following day.

The sociopathic nature of the Democratic Party establishment, as a health crisis plunged the country into a recession, demonstrated how reprehensible party operatives are willing to be in order to shepherd their preferred candidate closer to a presidential nomination.

Dysfunction that officials knew would occur resulted in voter suppression that made it impossible for numerous citizens to cast their ballot. Conditions stopped many other citizens from participating in the primaries.

Altogether, the results of the Arizona, Florida, and Illinois primaries were the product of an illegitimate electoral process carried out during a national state of emergency.

Once the news networks reported former Vice President Joe Biden was the winner of all three primaries, Biden appeared via livestream from his home in Wilmington, Delaware. “This is a moment, where we need our leaders to lead.” 

“It’s also a moment where the choices and decisions we make as individuals are going to collectively impact on what happens, make a big difference in the severity of this outbreak and the ability of our medical hospital systems to handle it,” Biden added.

What he declared was rather hypocritical. Biden likely secured an insurmountable delegate lead over his opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders. But he also showed zero leadership, put his base of elderly voters, who have overwhelmingly supported him, at risk, and his campaign disregarded CDC guidance to a degree that likely resulted in dozens of people becoming infected with the coronavirus because they believed what they claimed about how “safe” it was to vote.

‘Large-Scale Voter Disenfranchisement’ In Florida

If you are an older person, stay home and away from other people,” the CDC advised. “If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition that can put you at increased risk (for example, a condition that impairs your lung or heart function or weakens your immune system), stay home and away from other people.”

The CDC further recommended, “Even if you are young, or otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities can increase the risk for others. It is critical that you do your part to stop the spread of the coronavirus.” And, “Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.”

Much of Arizona’s voting was done by mail-in ballots. However, in Florida and Illinois, there were long lines of people, and in some cases, there were groups packed into rooms that violated the CDC’s recommendations. Polling places became health hazards that state health departments could have shut down.

The Dream Defenders, New Florida Majority, Organize Florida, and five individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit to challenge “large-scale voter disenfranchisement” of “communities of color and other historically vulnerable populations.” It painted a stark picture.

“Florida has reported 149 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and four deaths to date, with every expectation that these numbers will rise. Universities have sent students home, people are remaining in quarantine, poll workers are dropping out, and supervisors of elections have closed or moved 112 polling places in 22 counties, in many cases less than a week before the election,” the complaint stated.

“The predictable result is the denial of the vote to untold numbers of Floridians who had planned to vote in person on Election Day—including those who are elderly or have health conditions and cannot get to the polls without tremendous risk, university students who are no longer present in their county of registration because their dorms have closed, and those who venture out but encounter long lines and confusion at the polls.”

“And yet the State of Florida has failed to take reasonable emergency measures necessary for voter participation in the face of this crisis,” the groups added.

The deadline to request a mail-in ballot in Florida is the tenth day before an election. The World Health Organization did not declare that the coronavirus was a pandemic until March 11. Travel restrictions were not imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration until the same date, and it was not until March 13 that that a national emergency was declared.

Ray Winters, a 78 year-old voter in Miami Dade County, suffers from heart problems and seizures. He faces a higher risk of severe or “fatal outcomes” if he contracts the coronavirus. Winters initially planned to vote at his polling place, but he was unable to vote on March 17 without severely risking his health.

His wife, Kathleen Winters, who is 67 years old, did not want to risk contracting the virus. She was unable to vote without risking their health.

Bianca Maria Baez returned from an international trip and immediately quarantined herself. She planned to vote at a polling place, but upon return from her trip, it became clear she was at risk of “being asymptomatic while still having the virus.” She did not want to risk her health or the health of members of her community. Baez was unable to vote.

Another stunning example of voter disenfranchisement that was shared with the Dream Defenders apparently involved a small group of people, who went to a county elections office in Florida. They attempted to go through the process of casting votes for people, “who were unable to be home to vote because of the quarantine.”

“There’s a whole process in place, where the voter can provide an affidavit to designate someone else to pick up a mail in ballot for them on the day of an election,” one person in the group added. “We were not allowed to participate in this process due to not having a physician’s note to explain why they were not present. [Quarantining] due to coronavirus travel restrictions was not a valid reason.”

Florida has an “election emergency” law that allows the governor to issue an executive order and delay an election. He may do so independently or at the request of the secretary of state. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis refused to take this step, and days prior to the primary, he proclaimed, “We’re definitely voting. They voted during the Civil War. We’re going to vote.”

Illinois Governor Reportedly Rejected Request To Cancel In-Person Voting

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, who endorsed Joe Biden the day before the primary (Photo by Susan Stephens, WNIJ)

In Illinois, local news outlets in Chicago reported that the city’s board of elections asked Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker to “move to a mail-in only model and cancel in-person voting.” The board made this request immediately after the CDC classified the outbreak as a pandemic.

Chicago Board of Elections spokesperson Jim Allen said “the board anticipated the fear that the virus has caused among voters and poll workers but was told that the election was to be held anyway.”

After the first four hours of the primary, around 206 polling places were still not open. Tim O’Brien, a professor in Cook County, shared, “I went to my polling place early today. It was closed. An election official showed up to inform me that judges quit, and that they [were] ‘scrambling’ to get it going.”

Lea Salvatore reacted to the mess early in the morning. “Illinois primary is a complete disaster. Polling places have been eliminated with no notice to voters. I’m an election judge sitting on my couch with no place to go. My friend just showed up at hers, and the doors are locked. This whole primary should be invalid.”

One election judge said polling place workers were not trained to “wipe down machines before and after use.” Officials claimed they did not have time to give such coronavirus safety instructions, and several workers indicated they had to bring their own sanitizer or cleaning supplies to minimize risks to voters.

‘Likely A Death Sentence For Many Voters Simply Trying To Have Their Voice Heard’

Buzzfeed published a definitive report on election irregularities in the Illinois primary. One polling place coordinator in Lincoln Park had to turn voters away in the morning because the location had no equipment.

Thurgood Marshall Public Library during the Illinois primary, as coronavirus outbreak accelerated (Screen shot from @AbshirDSM)

“Voters are very upset,” Toya H. told Buzzfeed.

According to Buzzfeed, Toya sent them to “a different polling place, only for that location to run out of provisional ballots. By late morning, she was forced to redirect people to a polling place more than a mile away.”

Abshir Omar is the Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois political coordinator for the Bernie Sanders campaign. He went to several polling places and documented voter suppression.

On the south side of Chicago, at the Thurgood Marshall Library, Omar observed a “predominantly black senior population” that “waited on average two hours to vote in crowded rooms.”

“There are senior citizens sitting in there. They’ve been there two-to-three hours waiting. There are too many people smashed together in there. It’s too close in there,” Deborah Collins told Omar. “None of the senior citizens are being waited on. They’re just sitting there and waiting, and a lot of people are leaving. They’re not voting because they’re having to wait so long.”

While at a Gage Park early voting site in the second largest Latino district in Illinois, Omar documented a crowd of people in a “poorly ventilated basement.” Several left without voting because they weren’t “willing to risk their health.”

Yet another stunning example of non-CDC compliance was a line in the neighborhood near Wrigley Field stadium, where voters stood for around three hours. It stretched for multiple blocks and voters were not standing six feet apart.

“What I witnessed today in Chicago is likely a death sentence for many voters simply trying to have their voice heard. The state of Illinois effective immediately should test and treat all those that voted in person today. Unacceptable risks and clear violations of CDC guidelines,” Omar concluded.

Illinois students may register to vote at their campus address. Given that colleges or universities were shut down, that likely disenfranchised a significant number of students, who were deprived of the opportunity to vote because they were sent home.

‘The CDC And Folks Have Said It’s Safe’

Beyond disenfranchisement in states, officials promoted misinformation or pseudo-science.

Initially, Ohio was part of a unified front by states scheduled to vote on March 17. Officials released an extraordinary statement.

“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, polling locations see people from a nearby community coming into and out of the building for a short duration,” they asserted.

As is clear after today’s primaries in Florida and Illinois, hundreds if not thousands of voters were in buildings and in larger groups than CDC recommends for long durations. What happened was completely the opposite of what officials said would happen.

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, “worked with Arizona State University to enlist students to replace poll workers who quit or don’t show up.” Except, young people can still be carriers and spread the virus. They can become severely ill too and that can put a greater strain on health care facilities as they deal with surging cases among the elderly population.

Physician and health reporter Dr. Norman Swan warned, “Intensive care units across China and across Italy are full of people who are young. And it’s the young who are dying with no obvious risk factors.”

“When this takes off, it’s young people who hit your intensive care units, and you’re making decisions between a 40 year-old and a 60 year-old…terrible ethical conditions,” Swan added.

Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders went on CNN after the presidential debate on March 15 and said, “The CDC and folks have said it’s safe out there for Tuesday,” even though the CDC issued no statements about whether primaries posed a risk to the public’s health. She encouraged voters to go out there and vote in the middle of an accelerating pandemic.

Then, quite obnoxiously, after Biden took a commanding lead in the primary, she panicked. “Jake Tapper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta are basically pleading with Americans to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously. This is not a drill folks!”

The Biden campaign was afraid the pandemic would keep voters at home. Rather than appeal to officials to delay primaries, they cynically tweeted, “The right to vote is the most sacred American right there is. State election officials are working closely with public officials to hold safe elections.”

“If you are feeling healthy, not showing symptoms, and not at risk of being exposed to COVID-19, please vote on Tuesday,” the campaign urged.

The message was Trump-like in its disregard for public health risks. Everyone is at risk of being exposed to the coronavirus. A person who does not show symptoms could still have the virus and infect someone. A person may feel healthy but be a carrier. This is why schools, restaurants, bars, and non-essential businesses are shutting down. It is why the CDC recommends bans on the gathering of people that occurred at polling places.

To further emphasize the recklessness of the Biden campaign and Democratic officials who proceeded with the primaries, testing is going very poorly and will likely prolong the coronavirus outbreak. What that means, according to Axios, is the “virus has probably been spreading undetected for weeks.”

“More people than we know about are infected, which means more people than we know about are spreading the virus, which likely means way more people than we know about are infected.”

While the Biden campaign promoted misinformation, Bernie Sanders acknowledged the health risks when questioned by reporters. Sanders never called for postponing in-person voting, but his campaign told supporters, “Going to the polls amid the coronavirus outbreak is a personal decision, and we respect whichever choice voters make.” They even had volunteers call potential voters to provide tips on how to be safe if they intended to vote.

DNC Chair Tom Perez (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Leadership From Democrats Now That Biden Has A Commanding Lead

Ken Martin, the vice chair of the DNC and president of the Association of State Democratic Committees (ASDC), “called for states to immediately adopt emergency measures to ensure voters are not disenfranchised by this public health crisis.”

“The United States of America failed to live up to our democratic ideals when our primary election process broke down in a myriad of ways across several states,” Martin contended. “Some voters were turned away from their polling places due to a lack of equipment or poll workers, students at colleges and universities that were barred from campuses could not vote where they reside as students, others chose to stay home out of a perfectly reasonable fear of contracting COVID-19, and still more voters were put in harm’s way due to unsanitary conditions in their polling places. This is unacceptable and cannot continue.”

Martin’s leadership came too late for voters, especially since the national state of emergency is likely to interfere with any effort to seek a remedy.

The results were announced. It is not like states will allow additional mail-in ballots to be added to the tally. As such, they are forever tainted by the refusal of state governments to take action to reschedule primaries and extend mail-in voting. That taint extends to down-ballot races too.

Recommendations were issued by the DNC but only after Biden was further insulated from losing to Sanders. The DNC urged “remaining primary states” to incorporate “vote by mail.” They proposed “no-excuse absentee voting,” whereby a voter could either drop a ballot off at convenient locations or drop it in the mail. (To some degree, this is the contingency plan Arizona adopted.)

The DNC ridiculously accused Ohio of breeding “more chaos and confusion” by rescheduling the primary.

What Ohio did was find an off-ramp that all March 17 states should’ve taken to protect the public’s health. The state employed the authority of the health department to declare a health emergency and shut down polling places. It then left it up to the secretary of state to develop a remedy so that voters could participate by mailing in ballots or showing up to vote at polling places in June. 

“We can’t tell people it’s in their best interest to stay home and at the same time tell people to go vote. We should not force people to choose between their health and their constitutional duties as citizens,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine plainly stated.

***

The Organization of American States (OAS) has election observers, who are trained to look for the very deficiencies that occurred: failure to open polling stations, lack of voting equipment or electoral materials, missing designated polling officials, lack of adequate information about polling place locations, and long lines for voters.

Had this happened when there was no coronavirus outbreak, what unfolded would be even more outrageous to the world.

Justice Democrats Alexandra Rojas, the 29 year-old executive director for Justice Democrats, appeared on CNN while results from the primaries were tabulated. She appropriately captured the gravity of what the Democratic Party did to voters.

“In this moment, in the midst of a pandemic, where we know that millions of Americans lives are at risk, it feels like an abdication of Democratic leadership to carry forward,” Rojas argued. “I know that most of the states, like Arizona and Florida, have vote by mail. You have absentee ballots and folks voting early. But just as the right to vote is sacred so is every American life, and I think that unprecedented times and moments of uncertainty call for unprecedented measures.”

“So, even if it’s just one vote or a few votes, it matters. The fact that it feels like we were kind of talking about young people were crowding bars and going into public places just a few days ago, yet we’re pushing forward with primaries.”

Rojas concluded, “I think that Ohio made the right call. They prioritized the health and well-being of their citizenry.”

“If the question is if we gather in groups larger than 10—which I think those lines I think anecdotally I did not see people standing six feet apart, that’s really frightening, especially when it comes to the older population. So, as a younger person seeing this in the midst of a pandemic, [potentially] another recession within my lifetime, it feels very frightening in this moment, and I hope that Democratic leadership heeds that.”

Older voters are most vulnerable to death during this pandemic, and they have turned out in larger numbers in 2020 to make Biden the Democratic Party’s nominee. They are eager to vote for him and beat President Donald Trump in November.

Tragically, a number of them may not be alive in November, and the public may never know exactly how many elderly people died because of the deranged push to hold in-person voting during the pandemic.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."