By Christen Smith | The Center Square
Pennsylvania lawmakers unanimously agreed Wednesday to delay the state’s April 28 primary election until June 2 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Senate Bill 422 moved quickly between the chambers before winding up on Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk Wednesday evening. The governor told reporters earlier in the day he would sign it.
“Every Pennsylvanian is making sacrifices to try and slow the spread of COVID-19, and an Election Day has many moving parts that take weeks to prepare,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, said. “Ensuring the safety of poll workers, election officials, voters and candidates is our most important responsibility, so moving the date back is the most prudent action at this time.”
Lawmakers agreed to postpone the election for five weeks in hopes that the peak of the state’s coronavirus outbreak would be behind them. The Department of Health said Wednesday 1,127 residents tested positive for COVID-19 and 11 have died. The caseload increases between 30 percent and 45 percent daily, further threatening the state’s health care system.
Wolf implemented stay at home orders for 10 counties this week in an attempt to slow the virus’s spread. Cases have been recorded in more than two-thirds of the state, though public health officials can’t say when the exponential rise will eventually subside.
“That’s the trillion dollar question,” Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, told reporters Wednesday. “I don’t know that the administration has any confidence at this time. I’m not speaking for them in anyway, but I don’t think anyone can predict how long this crisis will last and how much longer we will have to practice social distancing.”
Corman said delaying the election beyond June 2 risks missing important local, state and federal deadlines for the general election.
Lawmakers also sent three other coronavirus relief bills to the governor’s desk that would relax unemployment compensation rules, temporarily remove mandates on public schools and provide additional state funds for health care facilities to buy medical supplies and equipment. The chamber also extended the deadline for state and local income tax filings until July 15, in line with federal changes.