Updated Mar 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

March 17 primaries: What you need to know

Vote here sign and a flag.
Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Three states are set to move forward with primaries today, even as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down schools, restaurants and large gatherings across the world.

Why it matters: Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden are competing for votes in Arizona, Florida and Illinois and their total trove of 664 delegates. But Ohio has declared a public health emergency, postponing the primaries because of concerns about COVID-19.

  • Biden has a chance to run up his delegate count against Sanders.
  • Sanders' chance at the nomination will be at serious risk if he can't muster a significant turnaround today. He currently needs 57% of the remaining delegates to win the nomination.
  • Tulsi Gabbard also remains in the race.

The delegate count so far:

  • Biden: 889 delegates
  • Sanders: 739 delegates
  • Gabbard: 2 delegates

Polls close at 8 p.m. ET in

  • Arizona, which has 79 delegates
  • Florida, which has 248 delegates

Polls close at 9 p.m. ET in

  • Illinois, which has 184 delegates

The state of play: Biden hasn't relinquished the momentum he gained when he won decisively in South Carolina last month, followed days later by a strong showing on Super Tuesday and the March 10 primaries.

  • Biden is the overwhelming favorite in polls in all four states, per FiveThirtyEight.

The big picture: Fears of spreading the coronavirus have already delayed elections in Georgia, Louisiana, and Ohio and canceled in-person voting in Wyoming.

  • Top elections officials in Arizona, Illinois, and Florida have said they are confident "that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election."
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tweeted late Monday that the state health commissioner had declared a health emergency and ordered Ohio polls closed. A judge had ruled earlier in the day that the primaries could proceed as scheduled on Tuesday.
  • Sanders campaign communications director Mike Casca said in a statement on Tuesday, "We are making clear to voters that we believe going to the polls amid the coronavirus outbreak is a personal decision and we respect whichever choice they make."

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