Most Americans might have to vote by post in November’s presidential elections, according to Joe Biden, the likely challenger to US president Donald Trump, who also floated the possibility of a virtual Democratic party conference because of coronavirus.
“I think it’s time we start thinking about how we’re going to hold elections . . . Is it going to mostly be by mail, which is not the preferred route for everyone — how are we going to do that? How are we going to make it available to everybody?” the former vice-president told ABC News on Sunday.
Just under a quarter of votes were by mail in 2016.
Mr Biden suggested that his party might have to cancel its convention this summer in Milwaukee and hold a virtual one instead to formally nominate its presidential candidate.
Mr Biden has an almost insurmountable lead over his opponent Bernie Sanders, and is widely expected to be confirmed as the Democratic candidate during the convention, which has already been pushed back a month until August thanks to the disease.
But he said on Sunday that party members might not be able to gather in person at all thanks to the severity of the outbreak. “We’re going to have to do a convention, may have to do a virtual convention. I think we should be thinking about that right now.”
Mr Trump on Saturday warned Americans to prepare for the “toughest week yet” of the coronavirus pandemic, with the military ready to deploy 1,000 medical personnel to New York. But Mr Trump also suggested some churches might still be able to hold Easter gatherings, albeit outdoors and with “great separation”.
Mr Trump insisted that his own party’s convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, would go ahead as planned. “We’re having the convention at the end of August and we think by the end of August we’ll be in good shape,” Mr Trump said on Saturday, insisting the convention would be “great”.
Meanwhile, the number of cases in the US continues to rise. Over 33,000 people were confirmed to have the disease on Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University, as the spread of the virus continued to accelerate. So far 8,407 people have died in the country.
There was better news from New York, however, which has been the hardest hit of any US state. Andrew Cuomo, the New York governor, said on Sunday that the number of new coronavirus deaths had decreased slightly and that it was possible the state had reached a plateau.
“We could either be very near the apex, or the apex could be a plateau and we could be on that plateau right now,” Mr Cuomo said, while cautioning that health experts needed more data before they could make a definitive judgment.
New York recorded 594 deaths over the past 24 hours, down from the 630 announced on Saturday. The state’s positive cases grew to 122,031, an addition of 10,841.