March 17 Primaries

Live Results And Analysis

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The results: Former Vice President Joe Biden is projected to win all three states tonight: Florida, Illinois and Arizona. Meanwhile, President Trump has clinched the GOP nomination.

Big picture: Biden now has a wide delegate lead, with more than half the delegates needed for the nomination. The rest of the primary calendar is in flux, but the DNC is urging states to stay on track.

Coronavirus news: Ohio officials suspended today’s primary, and the state’s Democratic Party is suing them. There were plenty of problems at polling sites in the other states.

Major development

Biden Projected To Win Arizona

This is former Vice President Joe Biden’s third projected win of the night.

Unlike Illinois, Arizona saw a surge in voter turnout, largely because of its widespread use of mail-in voting. Still, KJZZ reports that 80 polling places were closed in Maricopa County because of health concerns and a lack of cleaning supplies.

Both Biden’s and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaigns had to cancel events in Arizona because of the coronavirus, and this week’s debate was moved out of the state to a TV studio in Washington, D.C., with no audience.

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Biden: ‘We Need Our Leaders To Lead’

Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke via livestream tonight following two strong primary wins in Florida and Illinois.

With Biden’s delegate lead growing, the former vice president framed the majority of his remarks around combating the coronavirus pandemic, while also stressing the need for Democrats to unite around one candidate.

"This is a moment where we need our leaders to lead,” Biden said in somber remarks from his home in Wilmington, Del.

“But 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.

Biden also made a direct appeal to supporters of his competitor, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — and notably Sanders’ prominent younger base.

"So let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders. I hear you. I know what’s at stake. I know what we have to do. Our goal as a campaign — and my goal as a candidate for president — is to unify this party and then to unify the nation,” Biden said.

Biden attempted to speak to Sanders supporters last week as well, following another set of strong primary wins for the former vice president.

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Biden’s Big Night With Florida’s Latino Voters

Florida’s Democratic presidential primary gave former Vice President Joe Biden a chance to chip away at Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ strength among Latino voters, who have been among Sanders’ strongest sources of support. In Florida on Tuesday, Biden did just that, winning over a majority of the state’s Latino voters, according to AP VoteCast.

Latino voters made up about a fifth of the state’s Democratic primary electorate, but they are an incredibly diverse group. According to AP VoteCast, roughly 2 in 10 identified as Cuban and one-third as Puerto Rican. Biden won majorities of Puerto Ricans and Cubans. Among Cuban Americans in particular, Sanders had been facing an uphill climb. Though Cuban Americans have been more open to voting Democratic recently, they remain anti-Castro and have been wary of Sanders’ past praise of the Castro regime.

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Ohio Secretary Of State Defends Choice To Close Polls

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose defended Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s choice to postpone the state’s primary, which had been scheduled for today, amid growing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

DeWine late Monday night announced that the state’s health director was closing polls as a health emergency. That came after his effort to move the primary was postponed by a county judge.

“Governor DeWine and I made the right decision last night. The governor’s order to suspend the election protected the health of Ohioans and saved lives,” LaRose told NPR. “No question about it,” he added.

Ohio was set to vote Tuesday along with Florida, Arizona and Illinois.

"The governor was effectively telling Ohioans over 65 that they shouldn’t leave their homes unless they had an absolute necessity to, and so effectively 20% of our state’s population would be told that they have to make a choice between jeopardizing their health or exercising their constitutional rights,” LaRose told NPR.

“Certainly we can’t disenfranchise 20% of our state population and still call it a legitimate election," LaRose said.

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Biden Leads Delegate Count By Wide Margin

As of 9 p.m. ET, former Vice President Joe Biden has more than half of the delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.

Biden currently leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by about 300 delegates.

This comes as Biden is projected to win both Illinois and Florida tonight. Florida has 219 delegates up for grabs, the largest delegate prize of the evening.

You can see which delegates have been awarded here.

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Chicago Mayor Says City ‘Weathered The Storm’ On Election Day

Fears about the coronavirus outbreak complicated voting in the three states casting ballots today — and maybe nowhere as drastically as in Chicago.

Dozens of precincts had to relocate because of last-minute closures, and the city recruited 700 new election judges, Mayor Lori Lightfoot told NPR on Tuesday night.

“Not ideal circumstances,” Lightfoot said, “but we’ve weathered the storm so far.”

In-person turnout appears to be down, but Lightfoot emphasized that the city did also set a record for the number of absentee ballot requests it received.

“I think what we saw is people really intent on exercising their right to vote,” she said. “I don’t know of any election that’s ever been conducted during a pandemic.”

Illinois has been called by the Associated Press for former Vice President Joe Biden, whom Lightfoot endorsed.

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DNC Chair: State Primaries Should Proceed

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez told NPR on Tuesday night that he believes state officials should move forward with scheduled primaries despite guidance that people should socially distance themselves to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

He said postponing primaries will not work if election officials do not have a system in place for early voting.

“I think it’s a false choice to suggest we either have to protect safety or protect and ensure our democracy,” he said. “What you saw in Arizona today, and in Florida, was in Arizona more people voted early than voted in the entirety of the Democratic primary in 2016.”

Arizona Democratic Party officials said turnout surged in the state because of early mail-in voting.

Perez said he wants election officials in upcoming states to emulate states like Washington and Colorado, which have compulsory vote-by-mail policies.

“I’ve called on all the states that haven’t gone yet to take those steps so that we can in fact have voting and protect our workers, our voters, our candidates,” he said.

Perez added that he is not considering changing the Democratic National Convention this summer but is monitoring expert advice. That’s a shift from last week, when he said the convention was not “in jeopardy.”

Former Chair of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz told NPR Tuesday that it’s “too early” to make decisions about the convention but officials should have plans to deal with possible coronavirus developments.

“I would think that you have to have a backup plan because the logistics of planning a convention takes years, not months,” she said. “And so I’m confident that the DNC is thinking about that, but at the moment, that’s not a trigger that has to be pulled, so to speak.”

— Meredith Roaten, NPR Intern, Washington Desk
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Sanders Would Spend $2 Trillion On Coronavirus Crisis

Bernie Sanders gave remarks early on Tuesday evening, but it wasn’t the typical speech you’d expect a candidate to give on election night.

Via webstream ahead of the polls closing, the Vermont senator addressed supporters about the growing coronavirus crisis.

“I don’t have to tell anyone viewing this program that our country and, in fact, the world are facing an unprecedented series of crises,” he said. “We’re dealing with the coronavirus, which is spreading throughout this country and throughout the world. We’re dealing with a growing economic meltdown, which will impact tens of millions of workers in this country.”

Sanders then went through a series of proposals that he says he will introduce to Democratic leadership to address both the health and economic concerns brought on by this pandemic.

Calling it an “unprecedented moment which will require an unprecedented amount of money,” Sanders estimated spending at least $2 trillion to prevent deaths and job losses and to avoid an economic catastrophe.

First addressing the health care concerns, Sanders stressed that everyone in the country who needs to go to a doctor should be able to, regardless of income.

“In the midst of this crisis, what I believe we must do is empower Medicare to cover all medical bills during this emergency,” he said.

Sanders emphasized that this proposal is not “Medicare-for-All,” a staple policy proposal in nearly every campaign speech of his on the trail, saying it’s not possible to undertake passing such an effort at this moment.

“But what this does say is that if you’re uninsured, if you are underinsured, if you have high deductibles, if you have high copayments, if you have out-of-pocket expenses, Medicare will cover those expenses so that everybody, regardless of their health care needs … will get all the health care that they need,” he said.

Sanders went on to say that another top priority should be equipping hospitals and intensive care units with the equipment needed to deal with potential surges of patients coming into hospitals.

“Now, in my view, I mean, frankly, it is incomprehensible why in the wealthiest country on Earth, we are not better prepared,” he said. “But be that as it may, in my view right now, the federal government must work aggressively with the private sector to make certain that this equipment is available to hospitals and the rest of the medical community.”

Sanders talked about mobilizing medical residents, medical school students and retired medical professionals to assist in dealing with the crisis, given the possibility that doctors and nurses themselves become ill.

Sanders argued that it’s necessary to use existing emergency authority under the Defense Production Act to scale up production in the country of critical health care supplies, such as medical masks and ventilators.

Sanders also proposed expanding community health centers to increase access to care and utilizing the National Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and other military resources to deal with the crisis.

As for the economic crisis, Sanders said the top priority is making sure that those who are unemployed because of the virus still retain a paycheck.

“Think about the millions of workers who are being laid off in the tourism industry, in the fast-food industry, the restaurant industry, the transportation industry,” he said. “These are folks that don’t have a lot of money, as all of you know. Some 40% of the people in this country cannot afford a $400 emergency. So people are sitting out there and they’re saying, ‘My God, what am I going to do? How do I take care of my family?’”

Sanders wants the federal government to provide direct payroll costs for small and medium-sized businesses to keep workers employed until the crisis passes.

Sanders said the government should provide $2,000 cash to every household each month for the duration of the crisis “to provide them with the assistance they need to pay their bills and take care of their families.”

He also proposed that everyone who loses a job qualify for unemployment compensation at 100% of their prior salary with a cap of $75,000 a year.

Other proposals included expanding the Meals on Wheels program, school lunches and food stamps; putting an immediate moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and utility shut-offs; and waiving student loan payments.

Sanders admitted it won’t be likely that Congress approves all his proposals. “When you deal with the United States Congress, you don’t get everything that you want,” he conceded. “There will be a picking and choosing here and there.”

Sanders concluded by asking supporters to communicate with his campaign about their individual experiences during the crisis and to share any proposals they’d like to see enacted.

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Major development

Biden Projected To Win Illinois

Illinois has 155 delegates at stake, and former Vice President Joe Biden led by a lot in the polls here. Voting in Cook County, which includes Chicago, appears to have been dampened by the coronavirus outbreak.

After reported delays in polls opening, the county clerk allowed 40 suburban Cook County precincts to stay open an hour longer, until 9 p.m. ET.

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Major development

Trump Secures GOP Nomination

President Trump is now officially poised to be the Republican presidential nominee after surpassing the required number of delegates to attain the GOP nomination.

The president was not facing any significant challenges to his reelection bid and has won every state in the Republican primary thus far. Going into election night Tuesday, Trump had already accrued 1,104 delegates and needed to hit the GOP threshold of 1,276.

Trump passed that threshold following wins in Florida and Illinois tonight.

Arizona, which is holding its Democratic primary tonight, canceled its Republican contest in support of Trump. Arizona is one of several states around the country that have canceled their GOP presidential primaries — a practice seen in past reelection years by both political parties, most recently during then-President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign.

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Major development

Biden Projected To Win Florida

Florida is today’s biggest prize, with 219 delegates at stake. Former Vice President Joe Biden was the heavy favorite here, leading in polls by 40 points.

The state’s residents are relatively older — about 1 in 5 is older than 65.

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Alabama Lays Groundwork To Delay Runoff Election

Yet another election looks like it may be delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak. Alabama’s attorney general released an opinion Tuesday that could pave the way for the state to delay its March 31 Republican Senate runoff election.

If the state’s top election official, John Merrill, accepts the recommendation and delays the contest, Alabama would become the sixth in the past week to postpone voting because of health concerns.

Merrill requested an emergency ruling Sunday from the state’s attorney general, Steve Marshall, on whether he had the authority to approve a postponed and rescheduled runoff election.

The state’s constitution does not explicitly allow for an election postponement once a date has been set, according to Merrill’s office.

Marshall said the election could be postponed but recommended that it not be scheduled later than mid-July, so as to not interfere with November’s general election.

Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, is expected to announce her decision about the election’s date tomorrow.

The runoff will be closely watched, as former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville is running against former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who held a Senate seat in the state for 20 years. President Trump endorsed Tuberville last week.

The winner of the primary will run against incumbent Democrat Doug Jones in November.

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Biden Looks Like He Might Have A Big Night In Florida

Most polls have now closed in Florida, and it looks like former Vice President Joe Biden could have a big night in the state with the largest tranche of delegates up for grabs Tuesday.

The early wave of exit polls, conducted by Edison Research and paid for by many of the major television networks, shows the following:

  • Biden is more trusted than Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to handle Social Security by a big margin: 59% to 37%.
  • Biden is more trusted to handle gun policy by a whopping 63% to 27%.
  • Two-thirds think Biden’s policies are about right, compared with only a quarter who think he’s not liberal enough.
  • More voters think Sanders’ policies are too liberal (47%) than about right (36%).
  • More voters want a candidate who can unite the country (33%) than bring needed change (24%).
  • More voters want a return to Obama’s policies (43%) than a change to something more liberal (36%).
  • The electorate is considerably older (33% is 65 or above) than younger (12% is 18 to 29).
  • A significant share of the Democratic electorate is black — 29%.
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Democratic Primary Voters Worried About Coronavirus

Strong majorities of Democratic primary voters in Florida and Illinois on Tuesday said they are “somewhat” or “very” concerned about themselves or a family member contracting the novel coronavirus, according to data from AP VoteCast surveys of primary voters.

Florida, which has an older population, had a slightly higher percentage of voters saying they are “very” concerned about it — roughly 4 in 10 versus about one-third who said so in Illinois.

Florida Democrats said, by more than 20 points, that former Vice President Joe Biden would be better at handling health care issues than his rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, by a 56%-to-34% margin. Voters in Illinois were more split between the two.

More Florida and Illinois voters said Biden would definitely or probably win the general election. About 80% said so of Biden in both states; about 60% said the same of Sanders.

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Trump Set To Attain The GOP Nomination Tonight

President Trump will likely secure the Republican nomination tonight — he’s just 172 delegates short of the GOP delegate threshold.

Excluding Ohio, which canceled its primary, 246 delegates are up for grabs tonight for Republicans. With Trump facing only nominal competition, he is likely to receive all of them.

Trump’s current delegate total stands at 1,104 delegates. The GOP threshold is 1,276 delegates.

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Ohio Dems Sue To Prevent Elections Chief From Setting A New Primary Date

The Ohio Democratic Party filed a writ of prohibition with the Ohio Supreme Court, with the goal of preventing Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose from setting the date of the state’s 2020 presidential primary election.

Ohio Democrats say only the legislature or a court can set a new primary date.

Ohio voters were slated to go to the polls today, along with voters in Arizona, Illinois and Florida. But that changed during a dramatic series of events on Monday. State officials, hoping to shift the primary date to June, supported a lawsuit filed by people who believe they are vulnerable to the coronavirus. After a judge rejected that claim, the state’s health director, Amy Acton, closed the polls as a health emergency because of concerns about exposure to the contagion.

In a statement, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said the actions taken yesterday “did not create unchecked authority with the governor or secretary of state to run a new election.”

The statement continued: “Today’s action seeks that court order, preserving the primary while also proposing a more workable window for the election to take place, along with multiple opportunities and a reasonable amount of time for voters to vote.”

The writ of prohibition asks the court to prohibit LaRose from setting the date of Ohio’s 2020 primary election and to order LaRose to direct the state’s boards of elections to process and accept existing absentee ballot applications.

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Biden Assigned Full Secret Service Protection

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has begun receiving full Secret Service protection, according to a spokesman for the agency.

Biden had received the protection while he served in the Obama administration, but vice presidents lose that protection six months after they leave office.

This development comes despite the fact that Biden has held no public events since last week because of the coronavirus outbreak. He has instead hosted virtual events.

Biden’s Secret Service assignment also comes after an incident in Los Angeles where protesters rushed the stage as he was delivering a victory speech and Biden’s wife, along with some aides, stepped in and pulled them away.

NPR reported this month that the service was on standby to begin providing protection to Biden as well as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but the candidates had to officially request the service first via the Department of Homeland Security.

Sanders is not under Secret Service protection.

Major presidential candidates began receiving protection after Bobby Kennedy’s assassination in 1968.

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DNC Says Future Primaries Should Stay On Schedule

After a night of confusion over whether Ohio’s primary would take place (it is not), Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez is urging remaining states to keep their primaries as scheduled. That’s despite federal guidelines that people socially distance themselves and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. States can protect the health of voters, he said, while also protecting the right to vote by implementing mechanisms like vote by mail.

“As our country deals with the uncertainty of COVID-19, it is critical that states provide clarity and not confusion, which could lead to disenfranchising voters,” Perez said in a statement. “States can provide easy access to voting while still taking necessary precautions to protect the health and safety of the American people.”

States using vote by mail should mail ballots to registered voters, he said, and count all ballots that are postmarked by the date of the primary. He also suggested no-excuse absentee voting and, to reduce lines, expanded days and hours of early voting in places where in-person voting will still take place.

His statement continues:

“Eligible voters deserve certainty, safety, and accessibility. That’s why states that have not yet held primary elections should focus on implementing the aforementioned measures to make it easier and safer for voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote, instead of moving primaries to later in the cycle when timing around the virus remains unpredictable.”

“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, and we must do everything we can to protect and expand that right instead of bringing our democratic process to a halt.”

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Primary Turnout Drops In Chicago; Voting By Mail Surges Around Phoenix

Voting is underway in three states as the coronavirus pandemic has dampened turnout and kept polls from opening in some places.

In Arizona, KJZZ’s Jimmy Jenkins reports that 80 polling places were closed in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, because of health concerns and a lack of cleaning supplies.

In-person voters no longer have an assigned polling place and can cast ballots at any voting center.

Still, the Arizona Democratic Party is citing a surge in turnout because of the state’s widespread use of mail-in voting.

Kathren Coleman, deputy recorder for the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, tells NPR that the county received 280,000 ballots cast early or by mail. That’s 97,000 more Democratic ballots than in the 2016 primary.

First-time voter Bianca Bachman was determined to show up and vote this afternoon at the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix. “Young people have to stand up and show up and do our due diligence,” she said. “It’s a responsibility that everyone has and everyone should take heavily. It’s not something that we should all take lightly.” In Illinois, the Cook County clerk is allowing 40 suburban Cook County precincts to stay open an hour longer, until 8 p.m. CT, because of polling-place changes and late openings. WBEZ reports that in Chicago, some polling places didn’t open on time or have enough hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes. As of 1 p.m., 126,499 people had voted in person. At the same time four years ago, the count was about 300,000, according to WBEZ’s Becky Vevea.

Brooke Cartwright told WBEZ that she had already been rerouted from a polling place at a nearby library and didn’t end up voting. She said she planned to come back later in the day.

“I am surprised there are not more hand-washing stations,” Cartwright said. “I didn’t see a whole lot of election judges or coordinators wearing masks or gloves.”

Some counties in Florida experienced similar problems with polling stations not opening on time, because of poll workers who canceled over health concerns. Other locations, like many community centers in Broward County, were moved elsewhere.

Delray Beach voter Will Donahue told WLRN that he got to his polling place early, but there was so much confusion over which locations were open or closed that he ended up heading to work without voting.

“I’m just hoping to be able to get back to the polling location by 4 or 7 so that I can get my vote in,” he said. “It’s pretty frustrating because it’s just a shame that we weren’t able to delay our primaries like Ohio did. There are certainly a lot of people, especially in a state with as many retired people as Florida, who won’t be able to make it to polling locations.”

This post has been updated. Pam Fessler contributed to this report.

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Election Watchers Report Confusion, Staff Shortages At Voting Sites

Concerns over the coronavirus have hampered some voting in the three states holding primaries today: Arizona, Florida and Illinois. Ohio postponed its primary at the last minute.

According to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which held a press call this morning, the highest volume of reported problems at polling locations has come from Illinois.

In that state, officials hurried to relocate 50 Chicago-area polling locations after venues canceled at the last minute.

“It’s unprecedented for us to be addressing this much confusion,” said Ami Gandhi, of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

Gandhi said her organization has received a high number of calls from election judges and poll workers, many of whom are substituting for volunteers who canceled because of health concerns about the coronavirus. About 10% of poll workers in Cook County had canceled.

Gandhi also told reporters that there are reports of voters being turned away this morning because polling stations did not have the staff to open them.

There have also been reports of problems in Florida. In Palm Beach County, many poll workers didn’t report for duty at several locations. According to the Associated Press, 800 volunteers pulled out on Monday, and the county had rustled up only 100 new workers to take their place.

Liza McClenaghan, the chair of Common Cause Florida, reported that in Palm Beach County, some polling places didn’t open and others opened without the officials needed to unlock equipment.

She also cited concerns from homebound older voters, who typically have polling places in their assisted living facilities. Many of those sites have been relocated because of concerns over spreading the infection to high-risk residents.

In Arizona, polls have been open for only a few hours. Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, of Arizona Native Vote, reported some confusion over shifted polling locations, and she said her organization would continue monitoring as the day goes on.

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Biden Touts Success Despite Sanders Spending Big

In the Sunday Democratic debate, former Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged that his campaign has spent considerably less money compared with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — but is still winning in crucial states.

“[Voters] are coming out for me, and I didn’t even have the money to compete with this man [Sanders] in those states. I virtually had no money,” Biden said, citing his strong performance in Super Tuesday states.

“The press kept saying Biden has no money, and they were right — Biden had no money,” the former vice president added.

In the lead-up to Super Tuesday, the Biden campaign spent under $1 million on advertisements in Super Tuesday states, topping out around $625,000, compared with Sanders, who spent $15.5 million. Biden went on to win 10 out of the 14 states in play.

This trend for Biden may continue as Sanders is spending significantly more on advertising nationwide — $70 million for Sanders, compared with Biden’s $32 million.

In Florida, Illinois and Arizona (the three states voting on Tuesday), Sanders has spent nearly $9.6 million, compared with Biden’s approximate $8.2 million, according to data from Advertising Analytics through March 13.

These data exclude Ohio, which was supposed to vote on Tuesday but postponed its election until June because of the spread of the coronavirus.

Biden is benefiting from more super PAC spending. The pro-Biden super PAC Unite the Country has spent $8.9 million on ads, compared with the pro-Sanders super PAC Vote Nurses’ Values, which has spent just under $300,000.

Here’s the state-by-state breakdown of where both the candidates stand on ad spending, with Sanders topping Biden in each state.

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Polls Show It Could Be Another Big Night For Biden

Joe Biden has the delegate lead and a clear path to the Democratic presidential nomination. And if polling is accurate, the former vice president is set to expand his lead tonight.

Of the now-three states voting today, Florida is the biggest prize, with 219 delegates at stake. Biden has consistently held a polling advantage there, and it has widened significantly as the race has winnowed. As of today, he is up on Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by about 40 percentage points in the state, according to polling averages.

Florida has long been considered a poor state for Sanders. It has a relatively large share of older voters — one of Biden’s core constituencies — and Sanders may have hurt his cause further by commending a Cuban literacy program, angering some Cuban Americans in the state.

But Biden also has clear leads in the other two states voting today — Illinois and Arizona — according to averages of recent surveys, showing how swiftly and decisively his fortunes have risen all across the country since late February and as the Democratic contest has effectively become a two-candidate race.

Of course, polls are just a snapshot in time, and this nomination battle has shown how quickly things can change. This is the first series of states to vote since the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, and it follows the candidates’ first one-on-one debate.

Additionally, while many residents voted early in today’s voting states, the virus has scrambled projections of how many people will actually show up at the polls in person. Indeed, one county election official in Florida told NPR’s Miles Parks that she is expecting turnout to be about half of what she originally anticipated.

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Maryland Postpones Primary

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said today that the state will move its primary to June 2 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Hogan, a Republican, made the announcement during a news conference this morning as public health experts warn against large public gatherings where the infection could easily spread.

“Free and fair elections are the very foundation of American democracy,” he said. “And while there are many valid reasons for unease and uncertainty right now, ensuring that the voices of Maryland citizens are heard shouldn’t be one of them.”

Maryland was set to vote on April 28, along with five other East Coast states, in what’s known as the “Acela Primary,” for the Amtrak route that runs from New York City to Washington, D.C.

Hogan’s move also includes the election for Baltimore’s mayor. The governor ordered a vote-by-mail system for the special election to fill the 7th District U.S. House seat, vacated by the death of Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Four states have now postponed primaries: Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky and Ohio. The Buckeye State had been scheduled to vote today, but just hours before Election Day, the state’s health director announced that polls would not open. This morning, the Ohio Supreme Court denied a judge’s request to let the primary continue.

Hogan had already closed bars, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms across Maryland.

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Delegate Count Recap: Biden Leads And Sanders Needs Big Wins

Tuesday’s elections will be a critical day for both former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Biden leads in the delegate count after winning the majority of states throughout March so far, bringing his count to nearly 900 delegates.

Less than one month ago, Sanders looked like the emerging Democratic front-runner, with strong performances in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. But following Biden’s string of March wins, including 10 states alone on Super Tuesday, Sanders now trails Biden by approximately 150 delegates.

Here is the latest count:

Biden has the Democratic nomination in plain view, especially considering that he is polling highly in all the states in play on Tuesday — Florida, Arizona and Illinois.

Excluding Ohio, which delayed its primary at the last minute, 441 delegates are at stake this Tuesday. Florida is the largest state up for grabs, at 219 delegates, followed by Illinois with 155 and Arizona with 67.

It’s important to note that even though Biden is likely to come out of Tuesday with an even higher delegate lead, a Biden sweep would still not allow him to have enough delegates to secure the nomination.

According to the Democratic National Committee, a candidate can secure the Democratic presidential nomination only if the candidate wins 1,991 delegates (a 50%-plus-one majority).

That said, the more states Biden wins — especially delegate-heavy ones — the harder Sanders’ chances become to bounce back.

Monitor NPR’s delegate tracker for constant updates to the delegate count for Democratic candidates, along with state-by-state breakdowns for each primary and caucus.

Tuesday also marks an important turning point in the Republican race, as President Trump is expected to easily surpass the GOP delegate threshold needed to attain the nomination. With 328 delegates at stake, Trump currently stands at 1,104 delegates and needs only 172 more to reach the threshold.

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‘This Decision Was Not Made Lightly’: Voting Moves Ahead In 3 States

The polls didn’t open this morning in Ohio, one of four states supposed to cast ballots today in the presidential primary, after officials there expressed concerns about in-person voting amid the coronavirus.

But voting is moving ahead in the three other states: Arizona, Florida and Illinois.

In Arizona, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs posted a video on Twitter this morning encouraging voters to make a plan for casting a ballot.

Yesterday, Hobbs said Arizona would not cancel its primary, saying the situation could become more precarious if the state delayed.

“This decision was not made lightly, and what it all comes down to is that we have no guarantee that there will be a safer time to hold this election in the near future, and elections do not end on Election Day,” she said in a news release. “There are thousands of workers in communities across the state that must continue the job of counting the ballots in the days following the election. The longer we wait, the more difficult and dangerous it could become.”

In Illinois, the Cook County clerk encouraged poll workers to mark the floors of poll stations with tape this morning, promoting 6 feet of separation between voters.

Illinois officials said yesterday that more than 504,000 early votes had been received and more than 294,000 mail-in ballots had been sent out across the state.

“Much of the voting for this election already has been done,” Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said in a statement. “Also, at this point there is no date in the foreseeable future when we can expect greater safety with any certainty.”

And in Florida, a group of civil rights activists is suing to get the state’s vote-by-mail deadline extended.

Yesterday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that the primary would go on and that he didn’t expect large crowds at polling places because many voters had already voted early or by mail. “They voted during the Civil War,” he told reporters. “We’re going to vote.”

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Amid Pandemic, Campaigns Go Virtual

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders both canceled their in-person events before today’s primaries and transitioned to virtual campaigning in response to growing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Since Friday, Biden has hosted two “tele-town halls,” with the first for Illinois voters. The second, with his wife, Jill Biden, catered to voters in Illinois, Ohio, Arizona and Florida. (Ohio was supposed to vote today, but officials suspended the primary.)

On Saturday, Sanders held a “fireside chat” from his home in Vermont, where he and his campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, addressed supporters and took questions.

Last night, Sanders also held a digital rally that featured several entertainers and musicians, including rock ’n’ roll legend Neil Young.

These changes come after both campaigns suspended in-person canvassing and asked their staffs to work from home.

Mike Casca, Sanders’ communications director, added in a statement this morning that the campaign is not doing traditional get-out-the-vote outreach today.

“We are making clear to voters that we believe going to the polls amid the coronavirus outbreak is a personal decision,” he said.

This story was updated with additional reporting from NPR’s Scott Detrow.

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What To Watch For As 3 States Vote

So much has changed since the last round of primaries just a week ago. The coronavirus is dominating everything, and elections are on the back burner.

Ohio has suspended its primary today because of concerns about the virus. But voting goes on in Florida, Illinois and Arizona — and 441 delegates are up for grabs. Former Vice President Joe Biden currently has a lead of approximately 150 delegates over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Here’s a state-by-state guide to the three states voting today.

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Ohio’s Primary Is Off. Now 3 States Vote Today

In addition to Arizona, Illinois and Florida, a fourth state was supposed to vote today as well. But Ohio’s primary is now off, after a dramatic night of confusion for poll workers and voters.

Officials there announced yesterday that they were pursuing a lawsuit to try to move the state’s presidential primary election to June.

But unlike in many states, Ohio’s governor and secretary of state don’t have the power to delay the election on their own. Instead, the officials supported a lawsuit filed by people who believe they are vulnerable to the virus. A judge rejected that bid last night.

So state officials went another route: The state’s health director, Amy Acton, ordered the polls closed as a health emergency. The secretary of state followed up with guidance to all county boards of elections, saying that they “must post notice on their websites, social media, at the board of elections, and at polling places that in-person voting for the March 17, 2020 Presidential Primary Election is suspended.”

Early this morning, the Ohio Supreme Court denied a legal challenge that would have allowed the primary to continue.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose spoke to NPR overnight and explained his decision to support calling off the primary.

“During my service overseas,” he said, “I’ve witnessed people risking their lives to cast a ballot. I’ve walked in the footsteps of heroes on the streets of Selma, Alabama, where people had to fight for the right to vote. Elections are something I don’t take lightly. The only thing in the world that I think that takes precedent over conducting this free and fair election is the health and safety of Ohioans."

President Trump laid out new guidelines for Americans yesterday that include avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people for the rest of the month.

"It is clear that tomorrow’s in-person voting does not conform and cannot conform with these [health] guidelines," Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said earlier Monday. "We cannot conduct this election tomorrow, the in-person voting for 13 hours tomorrow, and conform to these guidelines.”

He added: "People should not have to choose between their rights and their health."

Louisiana also announced late last week that it would push its April primary to June, while Georgia announced over the weekend that its March 24 primary would be moved to May. Separately, Alabama is considering postponing its March 31 U.S. Senate primary runoff.

"In retrospect, it may be that we view these delays as being lifesavers," said Charles Stewart, an elections expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "On the other hand, it could be that we view the delays as being overreaches. We just don’t know at this point."

Kentucky, which was supposed to vote in May, also announced that it is delaying its election to June, bringing the number of states delaying elections because of the coronavirus to four, with the possibility of more to come.

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