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Biden Close to Formal Dem Nomination   06/03 06:16

   Joe Biden is on the cusp of formally securing the Democratic presidential 
nomination after winning hundreds more delegates in primary contests Tuesday 
that tested the nation's ability to run elections while balancing a pandemic 
and sweeping social unrest.

   (AP) -- Joe Biden is on the cusp of formally securing the Democratic 
presidential nomination after winning hundreds more delegates in primary 
contests Tuesday that tested the nation's ability to run elections while 
balancing a pandemic and sweeping social unrest.

   Biden could lock down the nomination within the next week as West Virginia 
and Georgia hold primaries.

   On Tuesday, voters across America were forced to navigate curfews, health 
concerns and National Guard troops  waiting in line hours after polls closed 
in some cases  after election officials dramatically reduced the number of 
in-person voting sites to minimize the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

   Biden and President Donald Trump easily swept their respective primary 
contests that ranged from Maryland to Montana and featured the night's biggest 
prize: Pennsylvania. The two men are certain to face each other on the 
presidential ballot in November, yet party rules require them first to 
accumulate a majority of delegates in the monthslong state-by-state primary 
season.

   Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination in March.

   Pennsylvania, which offered Tuesday's largest trove of delegates, also 
represented a significant test case for Republicans and Democrats working to 
strengthen their operations in a premier general election battleground.

   Voters were forced to brave long lines in "militarized zones" because 
officials consolidated the vast majority of polling places in Philadelphia to 
minimize health risks, according to Erin Kramer, executive director of One 
Pennsylvania. She noted that some polling places in African American 
communities are in police stations.

   "Having to stand in line while police officers are entering and exiting the 
building on police business is not exactly how people want to spend their 
election day," Kramer said.

   Biden was in Philadelphia earlier Tuesday to deliver remarks about the civil 
unrest that has erupted across the nation after the police killing of George 
Floyd. He didn't talk about the primary, instead focusing his attention on 
Trump, whom Biden blasted as "more interested in power than in principle."

   Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is not actively campaigning for the Democratic 
presidential nomination, having suspended his operation and endorsed Biden, but 
his name appeared on the ballots. On the eve of Tuesday's primaries, senior 
adviser Jeff Weaver encouraged progressives to vote for Sanders anyway to help 
maximize his influence in the direction of the Democratic Party.

   The comments served as a reminder that Biden may have no legitimate 
Democratic rivals remaining, but he must still win over skeptical activists 
from his party's far-left flank, who worry he's too close to the political 
establishment.

   Party unity was an afterthought this week, however, as more immediate health 
and safety concerns dominated the national conversation. The coronavirus death 
toll has surged past 100,000 nationwide, and thousands of new cases are 
reported each day.

   At the same time, several major cities, particularly Washington, D.C., and 
Philadelphia among those voting Tuesday, struggled to contain protests and 
related looting that led to thousands of arrests.

   Some voters said Trump's increasingly tough tone toward protesters inspired 
them to participate in the democratic process. Nicholas Autiello, who works in 
finance in Rhode Island, said he was disturbed by police driving back peaceful 
demonstrators near the White House on Monday.

   "Last night, we have a president who is acting like a dictator," Autiello 
said. "So being able to come out here this morning and fill in a circle next to 
a name for someone who I know will restore honor and decency to the presidency 
was so important."

   Political groups have had to adjust as some states move to a system that 
relies largely on voting by mail. They include Montana, where all 56 counties 
decided to vote entirely by mail, despite Trump's repeated warning against it. 
Voting rights watchdogs in multiple states on Tuesday expressed concerns about 
access to mail ballots, confusion about deadlines and a shortage of poll 
workers that led to long lines.

   "We are in unique times, and voting is a unique challenge for people," said 
Josh Schwerin, chief strategist for the pro-Democrat super PAC Priorities USA. 
He said that his organization and others would be watching closely on Tuesday 
"to see how well it works, where issues are and where obstacles have been put 
in place."

   Those voting Tuesday included the District of Columbia, Indiana, Maryland, 
Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Dakota. Two other 
states holding primary elections on Tuesday, Idaho and Iowa, chose their 
presidential nominee early in the year.

   In Iowa, Republican Rep. Steve King, known nationally for controversial 
remarks, lost his bid to be nominated for a 10th term to state Sen. Randy 
Feenstra. House Republicans stripped King of his committee assignments in 2019 
after comments that seemed to defend white nationalism, providing fuel for 
Feenstra's argument that King was no longer an effective representative for the 
4th District.

   In a New Mexico race for an open House seat, ex-CIA operative Valerie Plame 
lost the Democratic primary to attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez, a professional 
advocate for Native American communities and voting rights issues. A first-time 
candidate for public office, Plame harnessed her fame as the operative whose 
secret identity was exposed shorty after her diplomat husband disputed U.S. 
intelligence used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion.

 
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