Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has postponed the state's primaries from May 19 until June 9.
Raffensperger had previously resisted calls to move the election date back, saying he lacked the authority. But then Gov. Brian Kemp extended the state of emergency until May 13 and shelter-in-place order until Apr. 30. Early voting was set to begin Apr. 27.
“Due to the Governor’s extension of the state of emergency through a time period that includes almost every day of in-person voting for an election on May 19, and after careful consideration, I am now comfortable exercising the authority vested in me by Georgia law to postpone the primary election until June 9,” Raffensperger said in a news release. “This decision allows our office and county election officials to continue to put in place contingency plans to ensure that voting can be safe and secure when in-person voting begins and prioritizes the health and safety of voters, county election officials and poll workers.”
But there is no guarantee the coronavirus pandemic will be over June 9, said Democratic Party of Georgia voter protection director Saira Draper. She called on the secretary of state's office to do more to promote voting by mail, such as mailing every voter and absentee ballot—not just an application—providing paid postage and counting all ballots postmarked, rather than received, by Election Day.
"It is now the charge of the secretary of state to display political courage and follow through on his promise to Georgians that all voters can safely cast their ballots by mail, without barriers," Draper said.
Raffensperger's office said that June 9 is the latest the primaries can be held and still leave time for local election officials to design and print November ballots after the Aug. 11 runoff and send them to military personnel overseas by the mid-September deadline.
Early voting is now scheduled to start on May 18, and the deadline to register to vote is May 11.
The move doesn't affect just the Democratic presidential primary, which has already been pushed back once and is a moot point now that Sen. Bernie Sanders has suspended his campaign and former vice president Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee.
The ballot will also include Democratic and Republican primaries for U.S. Senate, congressional races, seats in the state legislature and partisan county races. In addition, nonpartisan local races, such as Athens-Clarke County commission and school board, will be decided on the same date.