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Some voters wore gloves to cast early ballots Saturday in Chicago. Photo: Noreen Nasir/AP

Mail-in ballots are becoming states' saving grace for their 2020 primary contests as the coronavirus crisis deepens in the U.S.

Why it matters: Amid CDC guidance that gatherings shouldn't exceed 50 people, the states voting today — Arizona, Florida and Illinois — all have multiple confirmed cases of the illness and are pushing citizens to consider their mail-in options.

  • Ohio was also set to vote on Tuesday, but has declared a public health emergency, postponing its primaries because of concerns about coronavirus.
  • Its state Democratic Party chairman David Pepper released a statement that included another alternative: conduct the primary entirely by vote-by-mail.
  • In a Monday press release email sent out from Joe Biden's campaign about an Ohio tele-town hall, it concluded: "If you're a member of an at-risk population or have been exposed to a diagnosed case of coronavirus, we encourage you to explore absentee ballots and vote by mail options, including emergency voting exceptions in your state."

The big picture: Coronavirus has presented a new analog twist to the election — a race that was expected to be so technologically advanced, Iowa once considered adopting digital caucuses.

  • Its lasting effects could mean polling places and voting lines are on the chopping block for future U.S. contests.

The state of play: While Louisiana and Georgia have postponed their primaries, Washington is a vote-by-mail state, which saved its primary from crumbling last week as coronavirus cases and deaths climbed in their state.

  • Wyoming suspended in-person voting for its April 4 caucuses, instead asking residents to vote by mail.
  • Illinois' governor told NPR he was considering moving to a mail-in primary.
  • Turnout among Democrats in Arizona has surged thanks to early mail-in ballots, per a spokesman for the Arizona Democratic Party.

The Florida Democratic Party has been pushing Floridians to vote by mail since before the 2018 midterm elections because they desperately needed a last-ditch effort to boost turnout.

  • More Democrats voted in 2018 than they did in 2016, the party's executive director Juan Peñalosa told Axios, and they say it’s because of the $1 million they spent in 2018 to specifically encourage registered voters who don't vote to do start doing so by mail.

"A lot of campaigns and institutional Democrats were upset that we were spending all that money on this program," Peñalosa told Axios. "Now we're just doubling down."

  • Roughly 2.6 million people voted by mail in Florida in 2018, and turnout increased by nearly double-digit margins from the 2014 to 2018 midterms.
  • Ahead of this year's election, the state party has held a Twitter town hall answering "myths" around voting by mail and the party chair said that over 1 million Florida Democrats have signed up to vote by mail.

Go deeper

Updated 32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull — CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer — Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines.
  2. Vaccines: Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — America's vaccination drive runs out of gas.
  3. Politics: Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19 — Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health."
  4. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  5. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — French parliament passes COVID vaccine passport legislation.
  6. Variant tracker

Mayors feel powerless to reduce homelessness

Expand chart
Recreated from 2021 Menino Survey of Mayors; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

America's mayors know their constituents hold them accountable for homelessness, but many don't feel they have the tools or power to fix things, a brand new survey says.

Why it matters: While homelessness has become more acute during the pandemic, city leaders say they lack the money, staff or political support needed to make a meaningful difference.

Ina Fried, author of Login
3 hours ago - Technology

Microsoft to buy Activision Blizzard

Microsoft

Microsoft announced Tuesday it plans to acquire video game giant Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in cash.

Why it matters: The move comes as Activision Blizzard has faced a wave of accusations of workplace harassment.