Super Tuesday: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders battle for delegate lead as polls close

Image: U.S. Air Force graphic/Master Sgt. James Branch

March 3 (UPI) — Former Vice President Joe Biden made a strong showing in the South and key northern states while Sen. Bernie Sanders notched Super Tuesday wins in his home state and the West.

Based on CNN and NBC News projections, Biden is expected to win North Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Minnesota and Massachusetts. Arkansas holds 31 pledged delegates, Oklahoma has 37, Alabama holds 52, Tennessee has 64, Minnesota holds 75, Massachusetts has 91, Virginia carries 99 and North Carolina has 110.

Sanders secured a win in his home state of Vermont, which carries 16 pledged delegates, as well as Colorado, which holds 67, and Utah, which has 29 delegates.

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg secured a win in the territory of American Samoa, which has six delegates.

In all, 14 states and one U.S. territory headed to the polls Tuesday in races that will help choose the Democratic nominee to face President Donald Trump in the November general election.

Three candidates dropped out of the race just before the Super Tuesday vote — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on Monday; former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Sunday; and billionaire Tom Steyer on Saturday. At a rally Monday in Texas, one of the states voting Tuesday, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and former candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke endorsed Biden.

Candidates criss-crossed the country Tuesday in last-ditch efforts to garner as many votes as possible.

After leaving Texas on Monday night, Biden headed to California, meeting with supporters at a diner in Oakland. He disregarded a suggestion by fellow candidate Bloomberg that Biden was taking votes from him.

Bloomberg, meanwhile, enjoyed a Cuban coffee with former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz in the South Florida city. He said he also planned to spend the day campaigning in Orlando and West Palm Beach. Florida’s primary is scheduled for March 17.

He said a contested convention may be the only way for him to win the Democratic nomination.

“I don’t think I can win any other way,” he said, adding that of the 14 states voting Tuesday, “I don’t know that we’re going to win any.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., stuck to her home state Tuesday morning so she and her husband could vote in the primary there. She was greeted by supporters at Graham and Parks School in Cambridge.

Sanders also was in his home state of Vermont, driving himself and his wife to a local community center to vote. He had no other events on his schedule for the day.

Who’s voting

States casting ballots Tuesday are Alabama, Arkansas, California Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia. American Samoa, a U.S. territory and the birthplace of candidate and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, will also vote.

A total of 1,344 delegates are up for grabs Tuesday — nearly 70 percent of the 1,991 needed to secure the Democratic nomination on the first ballot at the party’s national convention in Milwaukee in July.

With the largest populations and most delegates to award — a total of 756 — California and Texas are the top prizes Tuesday. North Carolina will pledge 110 delegates.

Residents of Los Angeles County used new voting machines, the first wholesale redesign of the county’s voting system in more than 50 years.

The Los Angeles Times reported that 15 other counties experienced problems connecting their voting systems to the statewide voter database Tuesday. Some counties were unable to update registration records to show that voters had already voted. To make sure voters weren’t able to vote twice, some elections officials asked them to cast provisional ballots, which are counted the day after the primary.

Los Angeles was unaffected by the problems.

“There is no evidence of malicious activity, and all counties have restored connectivity at this time,” Sam Mahood, a spokesman for Secretary of State Alex Padilla, said. “This should not prevent any voters from casting a ballot, as counties have contingency procedures in place to check in voters.

Voters faced long lines in Houston, up to three hours, after technical problems with some Democratic voting machines. Machines for the Republican primary had no reported problems.

“I don’t think it’s right that someone should have to wait that long to participate in our democratic process,” one voter, Karen Griffin, said.

Tornadoes in Tennessee overnight complicated the election process Tuesday. A polling location in Wilson County used paper ballots after it lost electricity due to the storm.

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Lauren Breeze, a member of the county’s election commission, said two shelter sites in the county weren’t offering shuttles to polling sites. Polling locations at two high schools in the county were closed due to damage.

On Tuesday afternoon, a Nashville judge ordered that all Davidson County polling sites will remain open until 8 p.m., a one-hour extension. Additionally, five other sites will have their closing time extended until 10 p.m.

Four of the top-polling Democratic campaigns and the Tennessee Democratic Party requested the extension in light of the severe weather.

Who’s in

Sanders, I-Vt., after contests in four states, so far leads all candidates with 60 pledged delegates. Biden, fresh off a dominating win last weekend in South Carolina, has 53 pledged delegates, and Warren has eight. Buttigieg won 26 delegates, and Klobuchar won seven prior to ending their campaigns.

“The last few days have made one thing very clear: We are building the campaign that will beat Donald Trump,” Biden tweeted Monday night.

“Whether you supported Pete, Amy, Beto, or any other candidate in this race — know that there is a home for you in our campaign. I will do everything I can to earn your vote.”

Sanders said, “We need a new vision for America — a vision that tells the corporate elite and the 1 percent that this country belongs to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.”

A wild card in the race is Bloomberg, a late entry to the campaign who could become a serious contender with a good Super Tuesday performance. He didn’t appear on the ballot in any of the early voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina — instead deciding to focus on the Super Tuesday states.

Bloomberg has spent millions on advertising and has participated in the last two primary debates, since the party dropped the donor requirement.

“Super Tuesday will mark the 100th day of our campaign,” Bloomberg tweeted. “In those 100 days, we’ve been mobilizing the country and building a movement to defeat Trump. To defeat him, we have to win Tuesday.”

Cyberattacks, coronavirus

A recent survey by computer security firm Critical Start showed 66 percent of Super Tuesday voters said they fear the elections aren’t secure — with many believing one of the campaigns would seek to influence the election and others concerned a foreign power, like Russia, might try to interfere.

Jordan Mauriello, Critical Start vice president of managed security, warned that cyberattacks — like denial of service attacks that seek to slow voting computers and other infrastructure through increased traffic — are simple for attackers to pull off and can be difficult to discern from common technical difficulties or other errors.

“Outside of getting honesty from the people who run the infrastructure, there is no way to tell the difference between a technical issue, a bug, an outage, something that is intentionally being disrupted,” he told UPI.

The survey found almost half of voters said paper ballots would make them more confident in the accuracy of elections. Mauriello acknowledged that electronic voting machines, which print bar codes as a mark of accuracy, can be manipulated.

“There’s no way for a human to really validate that a bar code is accurate, so if somebody were to compromise that system and manipulate what it actually writes on the bar code, people would never know the difference.”

Mauriello said the best way voters can ensure the accuracy of their ballot is to manually validate it.

“People [can] take the output of the ballot-marking device and feed it right back in, and it only takes a couple of minutes to validate it,” he said. “Take the extra time to do so, because it could be the difference between a correct and incorrect vote.”

Election security isn’t the only concern for Super Tuesday. Dozens of confirmed coronavirus cases have turned up in the United States, and at least six people have died.

In California, which has both the largest number of pledged delegates and the highest concentration of COVID-19 patients among Super Tuesday states, Secretary of State Alex Padilla said there have been “no indications of any disruptions” by the virus to the state’s primary.

Padilla noted that 75 percent of the state’s voters received absentee ballots, which can be mailed or dropped off at certain locations. John Gardner, assistant registrar of voters in Solano County, said the county has added curbside locations to allow voters to deliver ballots without leaving their vehicles.

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