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Murphy: ‘I would be stunned’ if New Jersey holds its primary on June 2

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday it’s likely the state will have to put off its June 2 primary election because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have a lot more flexibility than I thought we had two days ago, and we’re going to make a decision on that pretty soon,” Murphy, a Democrat, said during his daily coronavirus press briefing, “I would be stunned if we stay at June 2.”
On Thursday, the Democratic National Committee announced it was postponing the party’s presidential nominating convention to Aug. 17, the week before the Republican Party’s convention. The Milwaukee convention had been scheduled for July 13.
The June 2 primary, which will include presidential, Senate and congressional races, would typically have high voter turnout. If it is not pushed back, it could be held as New Jersey residents continue to face strict measures to combat the pandemic.
Aside from health concerns about voters heading to a physical polling location, elections officials are also facing the prospect of a shortage of poll workers — especially since many of those workers are senior citizens, who are more vulnerable to the virus.
Murphy’s remarks on Friday come as governors around the country are facing pressure about how to conduct primaries during the pandemic. In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers has infuriated fellow Democrats for refusing to push for a delay of that state’s primary, scheduled for Tuesday. In a reversal, Evers announced earlier Friday that he wants to postpone the primary, and instead create an all-mail election on May 26.
New Jersey is one of the states that’s been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with almost 30,000 known cases and at least 646 deaths reported in the last month. In March, Murphy ordered a virtual shutdown of the state’s retail sector and directed residents to stay at home unless it was absolutely necessary.
The state is already delaying this spring’s school board and special elections until May 12, and will require them to be conducted exclusively by mail.
Last month, Murphy, who also serves as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said that he is willing to make alternative arrangements for the June 2 primary.
“We will not hesitate to act if this emergency requires us to do so,” he said.
Officials have discussed making the June primary vote-by-mail only. New Jersey recently expanded its vote-by-mail law, automatically sending mail-in ballots to voters who cast them in recent elections. But there are numerous challenges to such a measure in addition to printing more ballots than usual.
The coronavirus is the biggest challenge to New Jersey elections since Hurricane Sandy devastated many parts of the state a week before the 2012 presidential election. At the time, then-Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who doubled as secretary of state, went as far as to authorize email and fax voting by residents displaced by Sandy — a decision a Rutgers Law professor later argued was illegal.
Katherine Landergan and Matt Friedman contributed to this report.