(CN) – Early returns showed voters handing delegates to former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday, as results rolled in from primaries in Washington state, Michigan, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Idaho. It was the first time in this primary cycle where voters had only two viable choices as the Democratic candidate for president.
Voting in last week’s Super Tuesday left Biden with 670 delegates to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ 574, out of a total of 3,979. Biden’s lead was the first to strengthen in today’s votes, when he nabbed 104 of the 352 delegates up for grabs.
For a clean win that avoids a brokered convention, a candidate must secure at least 1,991 delegates. Tulsi Gabbard remains in the race, but with only two delegates so far she is unlikely to be a contender.
The outcome of Tuesday’s vote is not yet clear in every state that voted, but mishaps are already cropping up.
In Washington state, there were questions Tuesday about how many ballots had been disqualified because voters didn’t follow a new law requiring them to declare a party affiliation in order to be counted. Over 36,000 such ballots had been disqualified for that reason by Monday night, according to numbers from the Washington Secretary of State.
In Missouri, poll workers turned away Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas after mistakenly determining he was not a registered voter. The incident, at the same polling station where Lucas said he had voted for 11 years, came just after he posted a video to social media encouraging others to vote.
“No matter who you vote for, no matter which side, it’s important that we have our voices heard in our community,” Lucas, a Democrat, said on the video.
Results show Biden winning Mississippi and Missouri’s combined 104 delegates on Tuesday night, as well as Michigan’s 125 delegates and the 20 from Idaho.
Sanders snagged North Dakota’s 14 delegates. And in Washington state, with 89 delegates, the Vermont senator had a narrow lead Wednesday morning, with 67% of the votes counted.
Next up after Tuesday’s votes will be the primary in Ohio, followed by one in Florida.
Speaking from Philadelphia on Tuesday night, Biden appealed to Sanders supporters.
“We share a common goal, and we’re going to defeat Donald Trump,” Biden said.
Biden ended by quoting the late poet Seamus Heaney.
“We’re going to make hope and history rhyme,” Biden said.
A spokesman for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign brushed off the idea that there was momentum behind anyone other than Trump.
“It has never mattered who the Democrat nominee turns out to be, and now that there are only two options left, it is clear that they are two sides of the same coin,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “The Democrat candidate for president will be running on a big government socialist agenda regardless of the name on the ballot. It is also clear that the Democrat establishment has rallied around the confused Joe Biden in an effort to deny the nomination to Bernie Sanders. Either way, President Trump is on an unstoppable drive toward reelection.”
In Washington state, voters send in their ballots by mail. They can also drop completed ballots at polling stations. In either case, election officials implored voters not to lick the adhesive strips on their ballot envelopes in hopes of reducing the spread of coronavirus, which by Tuesday afternoon had killed 25 people in Washington state. The Washington Department of Health said 269 cases were confirmed in the state, but Gov. Jay Inslee said the state was preparing to handle “tens of thousands” of cases based on researchers’ estimates of how far the illness may have spread.
But such worries didn’t appear keep voters from dropping their ballots at the Clark County Elections Office in Vancouver, Washington. They streamed in steadily on a beautiful sunlit morning, with some dashing through a traffic-filled intersection to vote.
Gabby Howell, a 27-year-old mother of two, said she’s been a dedicated Sanders supporter since she attended the Vermont senator’s 2016 rally in Portland, Oregon, where a small bird alighted on the podium as he spoke.
“That was just the most magical thing ever,” Howell said. “I love what Bernie stands for. All his life he’s been there for the underdogs and I really appreciate that.”
Howell said Sanders’ platform – especially his calls for universal Medicare and student loan forgiveness – align with the future she wants to see.
“Right now, the coronavirus is a very scary thing,” Howell said. “I just don’t want to have my children grow up in a United States where they are more worried about their medical bills than their education.”
The coronavirus made another appearance in Tuesday’s political action: Both Sanders and Biden cancelled campaign rallies they had planned that night. Each rally was scheduled to be held in Cleveland, and leaders for both campaigns said they decided not to hold the rallies based on the advice of Ohio health officials.
The mail-in ballot system in the Evergreen State means voters have been returning their ballots ever since they arrived in the mail on Feb. 22.
Carolyn Ward, 77, cast her ballot for Bloomberg before the field of candidates had narrowed.
“He was a moderate and he stood up to Trump pretty well,” she said. “And he had a lot of money backing him.”
Ward said she didn’t mind the timing, because she figured her vote would instead contribute to delegates for her other preferred candidate.
“That’s OK. Well, I like Biden also, so that’s about it.”
Her husband, Ron Ward, a 77-year-old retired elementary teacher, said he waited and cast his ballot directly for Biden.
“She’s an early bird,” Ward said of his wife. “It was too early for me.”
Hailee Anderson, a 26-year-old dog trainer, said this was her second time voting for Sanders.
“I think if the pendulum can swing as far one way as it did with Trump, I think it could swing the other way with Bernie Sanders,” Anderson said. “And I think it would be a great thing if we had some of the changes that he says he wants to bring about.”