Pennsylvania’s delayed primary to fall on ‘Super Tuesday II’

A dozen states will hold primary on June 2

  • Emily Previti/PA Post
Pennsylvanians are on track to file more than 800,000 unemployment claims before the end of the week, Gov. Tom Wolf said during a press conference Thursday afternoon. The tally goes back to March 15, Wolf said, when the governor ordered bars and restaurants across the state to close their dine-in facilities to minimize the spread of coronavirus. I looked at claims totals relative to total workforce by state, and found Pennsylvania ranked third based on filings through March 21 — the most recent nationwide data available from the U.S. Department of Labor. Experts told us it’s too soon to try to understand why Pa.’s so high on the list. We’ll be following this story and watching for numbers broken down by industry, sector and zip code, some of which we expect within a couple weeks. —Emily Previti, staff writer
Garth Everett

Screen grab from Pa. House floor livestream

State Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming) on the House floor just before the chamber unanimously passed SB422 Wednesday. Everett, who chairs the House State Government Committee, sponsored amendments to Pennsylvania’s election code, including temporary rules to move the primary from April 28 to June 2. Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to sign the measure before the weekend. (Screen grab from Pa. House floor livestream)

Pennsylvania’s primary will be postponed until June 2 once Gov. Tom Wolf signs the bill passed this week by the legislature.

Once it’s official, Pennsylvania will join a dozen states that have postponed their presidential primaries in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Three states – Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming – are extending mailed ballot deadlines.

But of the ten that rescheduled in-person voting, seven (including Pa.) are going with June 2.

This New York Times story explains how June 2 is nearly the last Tuesday to schedule a primary without running afoul of Democratic National Committee rules that require delegates to the party’s nominating convention to be submitted no later than June 20.

Miss that deadline and state parties risk forfeiting half their delegates, notes Josh Putnam, a political scientist who runs the Frontloading HQ blog.

What, then, of Louisiana postponing until June 20 and Kentucky until June 23?

“They’re not paying a whole lot of attention to party rules. That’s historically been the case. Other states have moved [presidential primaries] before, in the past, and ignored the rules,” Putnam said.

He noted the case of Florida in 2008, when a Republican legislature ignored Democratic Party rules over when the state could hold its primary. “They definitely didn’t care about the DNC,” he said.

“I think it’s too early to tell whether the DNC’s going to levy the penalty or not,” Putnam said, referring to a loss of delegates a state can send to the convention. “The DNC is keenly interested in getting states’ delegate selection processes in line: who those human beings are going to be, who will gather in Milwaukee, whenever that is, or remotely, should that be the case,” he said.

DNC higher-ups have been firm: they won’t delay the convention (July 13-16) or conduct it remotely.

“They’re saying that right now because of the complexities of the process,” said Terry Madonna, public affairs professor who runs Franklin and Marshall College’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs. “They have to be consistent, … or end up with chaos in terms of delegate selection. But, who knows what will happen. We’re in uncharted territory.”

States could’ve moved their primaries to June 9 without sacrificing delegates; however, none has as of this writing (officials in New York, for example, committed to moving their primary but have not yet settled on a date).

Madonna says June 9 is nearly too late to hold a primary, given the possible problems that can arise in any election. And this year, states anticipate a deluge of mailed ballots as voters try to stick to social distancing imperatives, he said.

The states that moved first to delay their primaries likely went with June 2 (versus the 9th), in part, because that’s when the very last regularly scheduled primaries will be held (in the continental U.S., that is; it’s June 6 in the Virgin Islands), Putnam noted.

And once a few states settled on June 2, it likely encouraged others to do the same, Putnam and Madonna said.

With the delays, nearly a dozen states will run nominating contests June 2, 2020 — a date that effectively becomes the second Super Tuesday of the year. –Emily Previti

Best of the rest

The Holiday Inn Express at 13th and Walnut in Center City is photographed on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. The city is planning to turn the hotel into Philadelphia’s first coronavirus quarantine site, and use it to house homeless people who test positive for the virus, according to two people with knowledge of the plans.

Heather Khalifa / Philadelphia Inquirer

The Holiday Inn Express at 13th and Walnut in Center City is photographed on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. The city is planning to turn the hotel into Philadelphia’s first coronavirus quarantine site, and use it to house homeless people who test positive for the virus, according to two people with knowledge of the plans. (Heather Khalifa/Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Pennsylvania officials are looking at repurposing hotels and other facilities to handle the anticipated coronavirus surge that will exceed the capacities of the commonwealth’s healthcare system. “Medical facilities statewide reported about 3,400 intensive care beds at last count,” PennLive’s Wallace McKelvey writes.” But a recent Harvard Global Health Institute study found the state would need from 2.5 to 7 times that number depending on how effective social distancing efforts are in avoiding a spike in patients.” Full story here.
  • Spotlight PA’s Angela Couloumbis and PA Post’s Ed Mahon teamed up on this story about how Gov. Tom Wolf’s former York County-based company was still operating despite not falling under the “life-essential” business category. Same for The Dan Smith Candy Company, owned by Senate President Joe Scarnati (R). Both companies are now closed — after the two reporters started asking questions. Give their piece a read here.
  • Local governments want more specific guidance on how to run public meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state Office of Open Records issued some recommendations, while a “common sense” approach was advised by the state association of district attorneys who’d prosecute violations. But that’s not enough, county and municipal officials say. A bill that passed the House and would provide more structure has stalled in a committee headed by state Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancster).  Martin — a county commissioner prior to ascending to the General Assembly — says he won’t move the measure because “passing new legislation would require committee hearings and significant deliberations that would take up time,” Ben Pontz writes for PA Post.
  • Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto sat down with PublicSource for a wide-ranging interview on how coronavirus will affect Pa.’s second-largest city. This quote stands out: “There is no magic day when things go back to normal. We are in this for the long haul, and looking at data from Asia and Europe, we are looking at a minimum of 10 weeks.”
  • U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R) joined 11 other GOP senators to urge the Trump administration to declare a truce in ongoing trade wars, at least until the coronavirus economic storm passes. The Post-Gazette has the story.
  • The Real ID deadline will be moved back a year, thanks to a provision tucked into the $2 trillion economic stimulus bill on its way to being passed by Congress. “Pennsylvanians were slow to start applying for Real ID driver’s licenses, the most common type of Real ID. In May 2019, just 200,000 of an expected 2.5 million drivers had acquired one. That number had climbed to about 700,000 in January,” The Morning Call reports. Closing PennDOT license centers amid the outbreak didn’t help either. The new deadline is Oct. 1, 2021.
  • Pennsylvanians are doing relatively well at social distancing, with a 45 percent reduction in movement detected among mobile device users (versus 40 percent nationally). The counties with the most cases and strictest containment directives saw the biggest drop, PennLive reports.

Coronavirus must-reads:

Learning at home: 

WHYY reports that school districts across Pennsylvania are getting little guidance from state education officials about how they should deliver online learning to students. “Rather than follow any state guidelines or standards, they say, districts must make a ‘good faith effort’ to provide remote instruction to students and submit a plan to the state for doing so,” the station reports. PennLive has a story on this issue too.

Help from public media: WITF recognizes that children, families and teachers are eager to continue learning together during these uncertain times.  Using a wealth of resources, WITF can create a bridge to distance learning opportunities and engaging experiences while we are all staying safe at home. More information online here.


Editor’s note: This post was updated to correct Josh Putnam’s name.

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