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Rhode Island to Hold Presidential Primary Amid Pandemic, Protests

Rhode Islanders will head to the polls Tuesday in the largest slate of presidential primaries in almost three months.

The Ocean State is one of seven states, as well as the District of Columbia, that will push through a pandemic and exploding racial tensions to hold primaries. Four states were originally scheduled to vote in April but delayed their contests because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The coronavirus death toll has surged past 100,000 nationwide, and thousands of new cases are reported each day. The death toll reached 720 in Rhode Island Monday, with two new fatalities reported by the Department of Health. An additional 67 positive cases Monday brought the total to 14,991.

At the same time, several major cities, including Providence and others voting Tuesday, are grappling with protests following the killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes.

Just 47 polling locations will be open on Tuesday for an estimated 39,100 voters in Rhode Island, according to WJAR, as residents have been encouraged to vote by mail due to the pandemic.

COVID-19 voting guidelines in RI
Preventative measures to ensure safety amid the coronavirus crisis are being implemented in accordance with the Rhode Island Board of Elections COVID-19 response plan:

All poll workers must wear masks and gloves
Voters are encouraged to wear face coverings, but will not be turned away if they are not wearing one
Plexiglas “sneezeguards” are suggested for check-in tables
Voting booths will be six feet apart and sanitized at least once per hour
Votes will be cast with disposable stylus pens
Line control workers will remind voters to maintain distance
A designated worker will sanitize contact surfaces
An outdoor worker will control the number of people coming in and out
Mail-in voting applications were due by May 19. Residents were asked to fill out the ballots and return them immediately to ensure that they were counted. Voters who still have mail-in ballots can leave them in a drop box at local city or town halls and polling locations by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 2.

What’s at stake?
Joe Biden needs to win 89% of all delegates at stake on Tuesday to formally clinch the Democrats’ presidential nomination.

With a dominant showing on Super Tuesday in early March, the former vice president pushed out all his major opponents. He will almost certainly secure the needed delegates later in the month if necessary.

Still, Tuesday offers a historic opportunity for the 77-year-old Democrat, who is waging his third presidential campaign and who hopes to amass as many delegates as possible to show strength before going up against President Donald Trump. 

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren who are not actively campaigning, have suspended operations and endorsed Biden. Their names will appear on the ballots.

On the eve of Tuesday’s primaries, senior adviser Jeff Weaver encouraged progressives to vote for Sanders anyway.

“People who support Bernie Sanders and his agenda, who want to maximize the influence of progressives at the convention, should cast their vote for Bernie Sanders,” Weaver said, reminding voters that the Vermont senator is seeking leverage to shape the party’s platform and rules. 

The comments serve as a reminder that Biden may have no legitimate Democratic rivals remaining, but he must still win over skeptical activists from his party’s far-left flank who worry he’s too close to the political establishment. 

Party unity will likely be an afterthought this week, however, as more immediate health and safety concerns dominate the national conversation.

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