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Louisiana Delays April Presidential Primary Over Viral Outbreak

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Concerns about the coronavirus have canceled concerts, professional sporting events, Broadway shows - you name it. And now for the first time, a primary election will be delayed. The state of Louisiana has postponed its primary from April 4 to June 20. And here to talk about that decision is the secretary of state of Louisiana, Kyle Ardoin. He made the announcement today.

Welcome.

KYLE ARDOIN: Thank you, Ailsa, good to be with you.

CHANG: So just briefly walk me through the thinking here. Why delay this particular primary by more than two months?

ARDOIN: Well, it still comes within the timeframe that gives the Democratic Party the ability to elect their candidate of choice and then assign their delegates because it will still be before the the Democratic convention.

CHANG: Right.

ARDOIN: The governor and I were very concerned of, first and foremost, of course, want to protect the health and safety of all our people in Louisiana. But the key stakeholder in this are our polling commissioners, who - more than half would have been in the group which is most concerning in terms of affected by this disease, 65 and older. And we just weren't certain that we would be able to assure them enough supplies to be protected. So we thought a delay was in order.

CHANG: I mean, at the same time, four states have said that they are still going to be holding their primaries this coming Tuesday. That's Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Do you feel that Louisiana is in a different position from those four states, or do you think maybe those states aren't being cautious enough?

ARDOIN: Well, I certainly don't want to speak for other states. But I think we are committed to trying to prevent the spread of this disease, so much so that we're taking extraordinary precautions throughout the state. We've just announced that K to 12 education will be suspended until mid-April. So with all of those precautions being taken, I think it was important.

Additionally, in Louisiana, we have about 32 polling locations that were either in a nursing home facility or connected to a facility that interacts with our senior citizens. Having to close those polling locations would have been devastating to voter turnout. And we're just concerned about having the - as much turnout as possible. And we just think this June date will offer us that opportunity.

CHANG: I do want to ask you, though, the Democratic National Convention has rules about the timing of primaries. They've said that any state that doesn't hold a primary by June 9 could lose half of its delegates. Your primary is now on June 20. So are you concerned that you could literally cut your delegation in half?

ARDOIN: Well, I certainly hope, given the nature of this issue, that the Democratic National Committee will come around and understand our efforts. I would note to you and your listeners that, while I'm a Republican, the governor had to sign off on our plan, and he is a Democrat. And not - shortly after my statement and the governor's agreement, the Democratic Party issued a statement in the state of Louisiana hoping that they would - that the DNC would adjust their rules, given the necessity to protect our people from this dreaded disease.

CHANG: That said, by June 20, it's likely that the Democratic nominee will be decided already. Are you concerned that this delay could essentially prevent Democrats in Louisiana from having any say in deciding their nominee for president?

ARDOIN: Well, I think certainly the most important thing is we need to protect our citizens first and foremost. And I did not let politics get in to any part of my decision-making. It was solely to protect our citizens. And that's where I'll stand at any time with regards to these types of issues.

CHANG: All right. That's Kyle Ardoin, the secretary of state for Louisiana.

Thank you very much for joining us today.

ARDOIN: Thank you, Ailsa. Have a blessed day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.