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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 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."