Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Tom Perez was roundly criticized on Tuesday for allowing voters to go forward in Arizona, Illinois, and Florida, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ohio was scheduled to vote as well, but Governor Mike DeWine called a statewide health emergency that preempted the vote.
Tuesday’s vote took place amid dire warnings by the CDC and health departments around the nation asking people to keep social distance, avoid crowds and avoid going out as much as possible.
Perez defended his decision to allow the primary in those states to go forward. He was asked by MSNBC host Chris Hayes what he thought about states that went ahead with their election despite fears that people may spread or contract COVID-19. “Yes, we respect what they’re doing,” he said. “I don’t think it’s for me to second-guess those judgments.”
It is the states themselves that have the final say on whether to decide an election can be held and not the DNC.
However, that did not stop the flood of critics and criticism on social media directed at Perez.
Nixon was responding to an Illinois election judge who tweeted that “5/8 election staff are elderly, we were provided with no cleaning supplies, we are missing an ENTIRE blue box [meaning anyone who comes to this precinct cannot vote], we are missing 2 election judges & nobody is answering our calls.”
Well-known journalist Glenn Greenwald called holding of the primary in the midst of the COVID-19, “sociopathic and morally grotesque.”
Walter Bragman, a progressive journalist, earlier tweeted caustically that, “the Democratic Party absolutely killed people today,” referring to primary voting.
Abshir Omar, a political coordinator of the Bernie Sanders campaign, tweeted, “This is not safe!” after observing a group of Black and elderly voters waiting to vote at the Thurgood Marshall Library in Chicago
“States can provide easy access to voting while still taking necessary precautions to protect the health and safety of the American people,” he said.
Perez had suggestions for future elections.
“In order to ensure the voices of voters are heard, the DNC is urging the remaining primary states to use a variety of other critical mechanisms that will make voting easier and safer for voters and election officials alike,” Perez said.
“The simplest tool is to vote by mail, which is already in use in a number of states and should be made available to all registered voters. States using vote by mail should proactively mail ballots to registered voters,… Additional tools include no-excuse absentee voting, whereby a voter can either drop a ballot off at convenient locations or drop it in the mail. And, where in-person voting can still take place under public health guidelines, states should expand days and hours of early voting to reduce lines.”
Over 100 doctors and medical professionals wrote an open letter to Perez, members of the Democratic National Committee, and to the secretaries of state in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Georgia.
“The amount of time standing in line with hundreds or even thousands of other voters substantially increases the likelihood that someone will get sick. By postponing primaries, state governments will be able to keep resources focused, and they will not need to worry about the distraction of running primaries while responding to this pandemic. This will also give time for the states to implement alternative voting mechanisms, such as vote-by-mail, at a sufficient scale if the pandemic continues to be an emergency for these states,” they wrote.
“Furthermore, polling place workers, who are generally retired, volunteers over 65 years old, should not need to be exposed to the risk of contracting the coronavirus while managing precinct locations,” they added.