Pa’s April 28 primary date could be moved Wolf says, as counties brace for possible changes

(Kelley Minars/Flickr)

This developing story will be updated.

Pennsylvania could still delay its April 28 primary, Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday. And officials in Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, who have direct oversight of those elections, say they’re bracing for what might come next.

“I’m not sure what impact [the COVID-19 outbreak] is going to have on the primary,” Wolf said Monday during a news conference updating on the state’s efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported “Obviously, we want to keep people safe, so to the extent that the state needs to move the April 28 date to another date, other states have already done this, Pennsylvania is certainly taking that into consideration.”

The Capital-Star reached out to the administration for further details on the state of its thinking on the election. That response was not immediately available.

Wolf’s remarks Monday, where state residents learned that the virus had spread to 76 of their fellow Pennsylvanians, was consistent with the administration’s messaging to date. As recently as Saturday, Wolf said the state was still keeping its options open on the spring election.

“It’s something that’s being talked about, but April 28 is too far away to make a decision,” Wolf said Saturday. “It’s on the table, but there’s no decision.”

Asked Saturday whether he’d support such a move, Wolf said that while he “[wants] to keep our democracy alive,” his “goal is to keep Pennsylvania safe.”

In an email to the Capital-Star, a spokesman for the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, said the county officials’ group had been “in contact with the Department of State, and understand discussions are happening around contingency plans for the April 28 primary, including options such as postponing it or moving to an all mail-in election.”

The spokesman, Ken Kroski, said the Department of State, which oversees elections,  had “been in touch with individual counties to get a better understanding of their resource capacities for each option. We expect a decision is likely to be made very soon.”

A spokeswoman for the Dept. of State told the Inquirer that officials were having “comprehensive discussions” on the matter. The agency was focused on the “best ways to protect the integrity of the election while safeguarding public health,” the newspaper reported.

Officials in Georgia and Louisiana have already opted to delay their primary elections, respectively rescheduling them to May 19 from March 24, and June 20 instead of April 4, CNBC reported. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday that he planned to go to court to try to delay the Buckeye State’s primary on Tuesday, according to published reports.

Meanwhile, voters head to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots in a trio of special state House elections to fill openings created by last fall’s municipal elections. State House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, is pressing ahead with those elections over the objections of the chamber’s Democrats, who say they should be delayed.

On Tuesday, Bucks County filed an emergency petition to try to stop the election, WHYY-FM in Philadelphia reported.

Capital-Star Staff Reporter Stephen Caruso contributed to this story. 

John L. Micek
John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. He's been covering Pennsylvania politics for more than 20 years and most recently served as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Micek's commentary is syndicated to more than 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. And he's a regular contributor to a host of broadcast outlets in Pennsylvania and abroad.