Democrats say they are monitoring updates ahead of Super Tuesday voting from the coronavirus outbreak stemming from China, where voters living abroad have been told they will need to cast their ballots online instead of in person when overseas voting starts next month.
“Our number one concern is to ensure all eligible voters are able to make their voices heard without jeopardizing anyone's health and safety. We will continue to closely monitor as the situation develops,” said Democratic National Commitee spokesperson Maya Hixson, in an email after The Independent inquired about precautions in place in primary states.
The decision to only allow voters in China to cast ballots online was announced by Democrats Abroad, which oversees voting for Americans abroad, and comes just as US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention officials said on Tuesday that they expect an outbreak of the virus in the United States.
In that warning, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said: “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”
The outbreak has led Chinese officials to quarantine entire cities, leading to a slowdown or halting of supply-chain production in the asian economic powerhouse. And, in response, global markets including the Dow and S&P 500 in the US have seen dramatic drops.
That economic unease — and the current concern that the outbreak might reach pandemic levels — has led some to note that continued issues could even impact the 2020 election in the US, especially if Donald Trump heads into November with a weakened economy as a result of the economic disruptions from the virus.
The decision by Democrats Abroad marks the first time that American elections have been impacted in a tangible way, however political observers say that it is unlikely that Democratic primaries in next week’s Super Tuesday states will be impacted by concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
And, beyond those upcoming states, it remains unclear whether this summer’s party conventions might be impacted.
“This concern seems premature. But, who knows how serious this becomes?” Robert Erikson, a professor of political science at Columbia University in New York, told The Independent in an email. “For example, could the party conventions be affected? I stress that it is way too early to speculate about.”
The DNC had previously told Buzzfeed News — which first reported Democrats Abroad’s switch to online voting in China — that decisions and preparations related to primary safety are not made by the national party.
The Trump administration has sought billions to address growing concerns in the US, while Democrats have called the president's response inadequate, with some Republicans urging Mr Trump to ask Congress for more funding than what the White House has asked for.
So far, more than 2,400 people have died from the disease in China. As of Sunday, the CDC reported there were 76,936 reported cases of the disease in mainland China, and another 1,875 in locations outside of China.