PHOENIX - The ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is already having an impact on the 2020 presidential election in the Valley.
Polling Stations Moved
On Wednesday, the Maricopa County Elections Department announced that five Phoenix-area polling places for next week’s presidential primary will be moved from senior living facilities to other locations to protect vulnerable residents from potential exposure to coronavirus.
Megan Gilbertson, a spokesperson for the county elections department, said postcards are being mailed to 3,152 voters to notify them of their new voting location. In addition, the county has updated its website.
"They will be in non-residential areas. That was important to us because the difference is in senior living facility and assisted living facilities, that is where we would be bringing crowds. To them, that is their home," said Erika Flores, Deputy Director of Communications for Maricopa County Elections.
The decision to move polling places was made after consulting health experts, Gilbertson said, and election officials will work with the affected care facilities on voting options for residents with limited mobility.
In addition, Gilbertson said all polling places will have supplies to keep them disinfected, and poll workers will have guidance on how to clean equipment and frequently touched surfaces.
Debates, Rallies Also Impacted
In a first for a faceoff debate -- former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders will take the stage at the Arizona Federal Theatre in downtown Phoenix on Sunday in front of an empty room.
"I think no audience in the debate has a significant impact on the debate," Stan Barnes said. It's a historic thing for a historic time."
Political analyst Stan Barnes says if coronavirus keeps candidates from attending campaign rallies, then it's Bernie Sanders who may take the biggest hit.
"Bernie Sanders has the grassroots energy. Rallies are good for him. A lot of people show up and he's running behind. Now, it's evidently not available to him," Barnes said.
However, it may work to Biden's benefit.
"It helps Joe Biden because it's starting to appear that Joe Biden is limiting his speech time and limiting his time at a mic in front of a live audience and now he has a great excuse to do so," Barnes said.
As for President Trump's campaign?
"We've all seen a Donald Trump rally. We all know what it looks like and his constituents are energized. I think on the net with both parties, I think it has less effect than you might think. It's really down to the democratic side," Barnes said.
"It doesn't take much to believe that the turnout is going to be different," Barnes said. "It might even be lower and it might be a different mix of people that decide they want to vote. The panic in the economy will echo in politics."
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.