What We've Learned from Pandemic Primaries So Far

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for this year's primaries that give insight into how November's Presidential election will play out. Problems experienced in Georgia and Pennsylvania exposed weaknesses in local Democratic officials election administration plans, while Kentucky emerged as a model for how other states should proceed.

In early June, Georgia's primary was fraught with issues in predominantly Democratic areas. Voters waited in astronomically long lines as precincts were combined and ill-equipped to handle the volume of in-person voters. While Democrats blamed Republican state officials for the issues, local officials are responsible for administering elections. In the Marietta Daily Journal, Cobb County GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd wrote:

It is unfair to claim that the secretary of state is responsible for everything locally — at some point, county officials must take responsibility for the need for more balloting places. County officials are also responsible for training, verifying the training, testing, and auditing. Those are the responsibilities of any good manager, and the need for training, verification, and auditing is well known in corporate America. But not in our counties, many of which reported inadequately trained workers.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf made last minute changes the night before Election Day allowing voters in some counties extra time to return their mail-in ballots. This added to confusion from voters who were already navigating a no-excuse absentee voting system for the first time.

However, Kentucky's primary was largely a success on Tuesday due to the bipartisan cooperation of state officials and the quick thinking of local election officials to  remedy problems. Even prominent Democrats like failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams praised the measures taken in Kentucky:

One thing is for sure, regardless of what states do to make elections run efficiently, it will likely take longer than normal to get results of elections in November due to higher utilization of voting by mail:

An expected surge in absentee voting in November due to the coronavirus pandemic will cause delays in certifying races up and down the ballot, former New York State Board of Elections deputy director Joe Burns said in a conference call organized by the Lawyers Democracy Fund, a conservative group that works on elections issues.

In close races, that could mean a long wait to determine who won.

“Instead of these elections being called in a week or two, you could certainly see these going a month or longer potentially,” Burns said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of unhappy candidates, a lot of unhappy party leaders on both sides.”

This is already playing out in the primaries. Despite Kentucky's primary running smoothly, results are not expected until June 30th.