STATEWIDE — Former Vice President Joe Biden easily won the Florida presidential primary Tuesday, extending his lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the path to the Democratic presidential nomination.
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Florida had the most delegates up for grabs Tuesday with 219 — the third-largest haul behind California and Texas, which have already voted — though Biden did not get all of Florida's delegates. Biden also picked up Illinois.
With 98.39% of Florida precincts reporting, Biden had 61.7% of the Democratic vote to Sanders' 22.9%. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pulled in 8.7% and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg 2.4%, despite both suspending their campaigns. They still appeared on the ballot because the ballots must be printed in time to be mailed overseas.
Early voting and the presidential primaries come in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic.
The victories in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona on Tuesday give Biden an almost insurmountable edge over Sanders in the Democratic presidential race, CNN reported late Tuesday night.
Addressing supporters in a live stream from his home in Delaware, Biden appealed to Sanders' supporters, saying they "have shifted the fundamental conversation in this country. Let me say to all those young voters who support Sen. Sanders: I hear you."
Biden also addressed the nationwide battle against the coronavirus' spread that has overshadowed the primary elections and upended life in America.
"Tackling this pandemic is a national emergency, akin to fighting a war," Biden said. “This pandemic will require leadership and cooperation from every level of government.”
Sanders vowed to remain in the race. He didn't discourage people in the three states from going to the polls, but did encourage voters to check CDC guidance to make sure they are safe.
In an online address after the polls closed in Florida, Sanders said that workers must still receive a paycheck even if their employer shuts down.
"We need to provide a direct, emergency $2,000 payment to every household in America every month, for the duration of the crisis, for the things they need, and pay their bills and take care of their families," Sanders said.
He continued to highlight what he calls the "disfunctionality" of our current health care system, underscoring that the U.S. is the only major country not guaranteeing health care to all people.
The Florida Democratic Party says more than 140,000 more Democrats voted by mail this year than in 2016. The party also said more than 70,000 more Democrats voted early in person this year than they did four years ago. The total early voter turnout in 2016 was 19 percent, lower than this year.
Additional vote-by-mail ballots and mail ballots from overseas are still being counted, so these numbers will increase.
"Early voting and vote by mail, a lot of people were using those two tools because of the fear of the coronavirus, and we have seen unprecedented numbers that they're growing, and different from 2016," Florida Democratic Party Communications Director Luisana Perez tells Spectrum News.
In Palm Beach County, Elections Supervisor Wendy Sartori Link said three polling sites had to be moved and four opened significantly late because workers didn't show up and hadn't given notice.
"We probably should have been expecting it more than we were," she said.
Ohio voters were also supposed to go to the polls Tuesday, but the state postponed its primary election amid worries over the effects of the coronavirus on American life. In fact, Biden and Sanders both canceled events in Tampa, Orlando, and Miami leading up to Tuesday's primary.
President Donald Trump easily won the Republican side of the presidential primaries in Florida and Illinois on Tuesday, securing the Republican Party nomination.