Voting machines are collected from a polling place at Our Lady of Lourdes church in Wintersville, Ohio, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Ohio's presidential primary was postponed Tuesday amid coronavirus concerns.
Voting machines are collected from a polling place at Our Lady of Lourdes church in Wintersville, Ohio, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Ohio's presidential primary was postponed Tuesday amid coronavirus concerns.
AP/PTI

The Democratic presidential primary is consumed with uncertainty after leaders in Ohio called off Tuesday's election just hours before polls were set to open, citing the need to combat the new coronavirus.

Officials in Florida, Arizona and Illinois said they would move forward with the vote - but by early Tuesday morning, the virus was hurting people's efforts to get to the polls. Some Florida polling places couldn't open as poll workers didn't arrive because of fears over the potentially deadly virus.

The Palm Beach County elections department said many workers failed to show up in at least five locations. The county had 800 volunteers back out as of Monday, with just 100 new volunteers offering to take their placex. In Illinois, Cook County Clerk Karen A. Yarbrough took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to encourage poll workers to mark space on the floor at polling sites to keep voters a safe distance apart and avoid spreading the virus.

The tweet included a photo of a roll of blue tape, a piece of string and a tape measure along with a note that concludes: "THIS PICTURE CAN SAVE LIVES."

Yarbrough said shortly after the polls opened, however, that she had heard of no problems at the county's polling sites and expected "things to go well" on Tuesday.

"I'm just hopeful that we'll have a good day voting for the people," she said.

Not since New York City postponed its mayoral primary on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has an election been pushed off in such a high-profile, far-reaching way.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine initially asked a court to delay the vote, and when a judge refused to do so the state's health director declared a health emergency that would prevent the polls from opening.

The decision was a reminder that the most elemental act of American democracy - voting - will be severely tested Tuesday as several states hold presidential primaries while also confronting the impact of a global pandemic.

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