Democracy during the pandemic

Arizona voters cast their ballots for the Democratic presidential general election candidate amidst a global pandemic.

Instead of shaking hands, Marshall Bill Pierce and I shook elbows at the Dobson Ranch polling location in Mesa, where Arizona voters submitted ballots in person despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to practice social distancing due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

According to the Associated Press, Joe Biden has won the Arizona Primary with 43.6% of the vote and gain 37 delegates. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders trails behind with 31.7% and currently has 28 delegates as of 2 p.m., March 18.

The new coronavirus has ignited fear nationwide, causing massive economic decline and a near halt to everyday life. People are now working or studying remotely from their homes, and businesses are being told to close to prevent further infections.

Pierce assists voters submitting their ballots and tracks how many people walk in to vote. Around 5 p.m., Pierce said more than 250 people had voted in person at his location.

With help from other senior citizens, Pierce and Judge Jeanette Thoroughman took preventative measures to ensure the health and safety of in-person voters.

Thoroughman said they wiped down screens, booths, tables and pens with disinfectant wipes every 15 minutes, propped doors open to reduce contact with door handles and offered rubber gloves for protection.

“I do feel concerned,” Thoroughman said about the pandemic. “I’m 65… I’ve had a heart attack.”

Despite her concerns, she said it is her duty to be present at the primaries.

Pierce said he was not extremely worried about the virus.

“In my case, I’m not too worried about it, and I just had cancer surgery in January,” said Pierce. “I took good care of myself… We’re not in here shaking hands with everybody or running around giving everybody hugs.”

The designated polling room is about the size of an average school classroom. People walked in and out, and at times groups were in close proximity. According to Pierce, they tried to observe the minimum 6-foot distance between people and gave space to others.

Mesa resident Georgi Binder said her experience voting was not what she expected.

“It was really nice. I thought I was going to have to wait a really long time, but that wasn’t the case, and everyone was really helpful,” Binder said.

Though this was her first time voting in person, she had voted in other elections through mail-in ballots. When asked if she was concerned about the coronavirus, she said yes.

“I keep a giant bottle of hand sanitizer in my purse and baby wipes in my car,” said Binder. Her preventative measures to combat the coronavirus are because her mother is immunocompromised and susceptible to illnesses.

Despite the global coronavirus pandemic and the declaration of emergency from Gov. Doug Ducey, Arizona voters still came out to vote. Other states like Ohio, Georgia, and Louisiana have delayed their primaries to later dates to limit exposure to the virus.

  • Shayden Joe

    Shayden Joe is a Native American student journalist from Ganado, Arizona, and currently resides in Phoenix. He joined the Mesa Legend in January 2020 as the Opinions Editor. He has been writing articles for the past year and creatively since teenhood.

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