US officials attempt elections in the era of coronavirus

A vote in Nebraska is among a trio of elections being held across the US on Tuesday despite the pandemic.

    Voters drop off ballots in a special election for California's 25th Congressional District during the coronavirus outbreak in Simi Valley, California [Mark J Terrill/AP Photo]
    Voters drop off ballots in a special election for California's 25th Congressional District during the coronavirus outbreak in Simi Valley, California [Mark J Terrill/AP Photo]

    Voters in the state of Nebraska on Tuesday participated in the first in-person primary in the United States since a heavily criticised election in Wisconsin five weeks ago in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Polling places in the state capital of Omaha appeared largely quiet, in part because of the huge number of absentee ballots mailed into election offices. Officials had encouraged people to vote by mail, though Republican Governor Pete Ricketts and Secretary of State Bob Evnen both pledged to forge ahead with an in-person primary even though many other states have rescheduled theirs or switched to all-mail voting.

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    Polling sites in the Omaha suburb of Papillion reported lower in-person turnout than normal on Tuesday morning.

    The vote in Nebraska was among a trio of elections being held in different parts of the US on Tuesday despite the pandemic.

    A special election in a rural Wisconsin district President Donald Trump carried by 20 points pits a Trump-aligned state senator, Tom Tiffany, against a school board president, Tricia Zunker, who is hoping to become the first Native American elected to US Congress from that state.

    The Wisconsin election is being billed as a barometer of Republican enthusiasm in a deeply conservative part of the state just over a month after a liberal-backed Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate won a statewide race over a Trump-backed candidate.

    The winner in Wisconsin's 7th District will replace Republican Sean Duffy, a former star on MTV's Real World who held the seat since 2011 and remains a vocal Trump backer.

    It is the second time voters in Wisconsin left their homes in five weeks to cast ballots in the middle of a stay-at-home order. Wisconsin held its presidential primary election on April 7.

    Also being closely watched was a special election in a district north of Los Angeles seen as another early bellwether for President Trump.

    Trump has sought to bring his influence to the fight between Republican Mike Garcia and Democrat Christy Smith for California's 25th District, which cuts through a hilly stretch of suburbs and small ranches that includes the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

    The results are unlikely to be known for at least for several days, however, due in part to California's unusual vote-counting rules.

    The district was long in Republican hands before Democrat Katie Hill captured it in an upset in 2018; she resigned last year amid a House ethics probe over an inappropriate relationship she had with a member of her staff.

    When Hill won, it was the last Republican-held House seat anchored in Los Angeles County. It also includes a slice of Ventura County.

    The race is widely considered a toss-up. The outcome will not affect the balance of power in the US House of Representatives, but the race has taken on outsized importance as the only competitive House race in the country in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.

    SOURCE: News agencies