Floridians choose between Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders amid outbreak fears

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Despite virus, lack of campaigning, Florida's presidential primary is here.

Election Day has arrived for Florida’s strangest presidential primary election in memory.

Democrats who haven’t taken advantage of early voting or mail-in voting are welcomed at the polling places today amid rapidly increasing concerns about anyone going anywhere during the outbreak of the new coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease. Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a commanding lead in Florida public opinion surveys and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is holding on.

Republicans are welcome at the election sites too, though President Donald Trump essentially is running unopposed for reelection in the Republican primary. There are other names on the ballot but the President is expected to take close to 100 percent.

There had been some calls for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to postpone the primary because of coronavirus concerns, but he chose not to.

Also pushing ahead with presidential primaries on Tuesday were Illinois and Arizona. After Ohio’s health director ordered polls closed there, that state’s election was rescheduled for June 2.

There also are municipal elections in scores of Florida cities and towns.

“We’re not going to panic,” DeSantis said in a Monday news conference. He said polling places likely wouldn’t have large crowds on Tuesday, in part because many voters have made their choices already via mail or early voting. “I think you can do it in a way that’s going to protect people.”

This has been a primary without much campaigning. Though both have been running TV commercials for about 10 days, neither Biden nor Sanders ever held a campaign rally in Florida this year. Biden had held a rally in September in Miami, and had been back a couple of times for private fundraisers. Sanders has not been in Florida since the first Democratic presidential debate in Miami last June. By this time last week, campaigns began shutting down rallies and meetings nationwide.

About 1.9 million of Florida’s voters had voted by mail or at early voting centers as of Monday afternoon, according statistics from the Division of Elections.

The state is distributing cleaning supplies to counties, including hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes.

But Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux said he had to send a staffer to Orlando to pick them up Sunday — a seven-hour drive when manpower is already lean.

They came back with 15 tubs of disinfectant wipes, dispensers and 200 1-ounce [30-milliliter] bottles of hand sanitizer for poll workers to share at their tables.

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Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.

Staff Reports



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