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Joe Biden wins Florida, Illinois, Arizona primaries

Former Vice President Joe Biden swept Tuesday's three-state primary, widening his delegate lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Former Vice President Joe Biden swept Tuesday's three-state primary, widening his delegate lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 17 (UPI) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden swept Tuesday's three-state primary, news outlets projected.

Biden was projected to win Florida, Illinois and Arizona according to CNN and NBC News, widening his delegate lead over. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the Democratic presidential primary.

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"Our campaign has had a very good night," Biden said in a message broadcast from his home in Delaware instead of before a crowd of supporters to adhere to guidelines against gatherings of more than 10 people due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We move closer to securing the Democratic Party's nomination for president and we're doing it by building a broad coalition that we need to win in November," he said.

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A total of 441 delegates were available on Tuesday as Florida carries 219 pledged delegates, making it one of the most coveted primary states, while Illinois holds 155, and Arizona carries 67.

GOP President Donald Trump was also projected to have gathered enough delegates to win the Republican nomination with a win in Illinois.

Biden made an appeal to Sanders' supporters, saying he and the senator share a common vision and praising his supporters for bringing "a remarkable passion and tenacity" to the issues at hand in the election.

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"So let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Sen. Sanders: I hear you. I know what's at stake. I know what we have to do."

He also called for unity as the country deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You know, it's in moments like these we realize we need to put politics aside and work together as Americans," Biden said. "The coronavirus doesn't care if you're a Democrat or Republican."

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The complications over the primaries due to the coronavirus outbreak have cut the number of poll workers and may hamper voter turnout.

Ohio pulled the plug on its primary early Tuesday following several wild hours of maneuvering.

In legal wrangling that went into Tuesday morning, the Ohio Supreme Court stepped in to postpone its primary, denying a legal challenge from a candidate in Wood County, near Toledo, who argued the state's effort to delay the vote violated state election law.

Gov. Mike DeWine tried Monday to postpone the election but a Franklin County judge denied his request, saying it was too late since the polls were set to open within hours. After failing to appeal the move, Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Health Department, issued her own order to close the polls.

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Acton's order said the delay is necessary "to avoid the imminent threat with a high probability of widespread exposure to COVID-19 with a significant risk of substantial harm to a large number of the people in the general population, including the elderly and people with weakened immune systems and chronic medical conditions."

The state's Supreme Court agreed. The Ohio Democratic primary, which will award 136 delegates, has not yet been set for a future date.

Arizona's most populous county, Maricopa, also closed most of its polling places for safety reasons because of the virus. The state said it would operate 150 "vote centers," where ballots could be cast regardless of where voters live. Voters also had an opportunity to vote by mail.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered election authorities to close all polling places in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, but polling places elsewhere were open normally.

In Illinois, polling places in schools and other locations were closed due to the coronavirus. The state faces a poll worker shortage and state officials expected a low voter turnout.

"We are in an untenable position at this point, and we understand and refuse to punish the [election] judges whose age or health condition might prevent them from going out," said Marisel Hernandez, chair of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. "[We are] bracing for the most difficult election, under the most trying of times."

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