CHICAGO (CN) – Former Vice President Joe Biden has won the Illinois Democratic primary in the latest in a string of victories across the country, positioning him closer to securing the party’s presidential nomination.
With 96% of the votes counted Tuesday night, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders trailed with 36% of the votes, while Biden had 59% of the votes.
Biden was also declared the winner in Florida’s Democratic primary Tuesday in a major blow to his competition.
“Our campaign has had a very good night,” Biden said via a live stream used to avoid large groups of people per federal COVID-19 guidelines.
“I hear you,” he said to young voters, telling them he and Sanders “share a common vision” when it comes to healthcare, inequality and climate change.
Illinois opted to carry on with its election despite new federal guidelines limiting public gatherings to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, as did Arizona and Florida, while Ohio ended up delaying the election after the state’s health director declared a public health emergency and closed the polls.
“We need to have our elections,” Illinois Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker said Monday at a press conference. “We do believe it’s safe.”
County election boards scrambled to find election judges at the last minute due to many dropping out over coronavirus concerns, Cook County alone finding itself short of nearly 2,500 poll workers as of Monday.
Polling places also changed at the last minute in an attempt to avoid contact with seniors in locations such as nursing homes, and some voters reported Tuesday that their polling places were closed or opened late.
The state also saw a surge in mail-in ballot requests and early voting.
Around 118,000 people in Chicago requested to vote by mail, breaking a record from the 1940s, with 293,000 doing so statewide. As of Monday, 110,000 of those ballots had been mailed in.
The state reported another 491,000 people opted to avoid crowds and voted at early polling places before Tuesday’s election.
A projected 1.5 million Illinois residents cast their votes Tuesday, an abysmal turnout compared with previous primary elections.
Past presidential primaries in Illinois saw far more registered voters showing up, with turnout hitting 3.5 million (46.56% of registered voters) in 2016 and 2.9 million (40.89%) in 2008 when President Barack Obama faced off against Hillary Clinton.
Although Obama overwhelmingly beat Clinton on his home turf in 2008, Clinton did manage to take Bernie Sanders by about two points in the state in 2016.
Illinois Republican voters chose Donald Trump in the 2016 primaries, the president getting 38.8 percent of the votes.
Before Tuesday’s vote, Biden had already surged to the forefront, collecting 898 party delegates to Sanders’ 745.
While Sanders has won California, Colorado, Nevada and his home state of Vermont, the more moderate Biden has been sweeping states in the South and Midwest.
Illinois’ 155 delegates were at stake in Tuesday’s election, while 168 delegates have already been pledged to candidates who have since dropped out of the race, most going to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Biden has been collecting endorsements from his former rivals, including Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke and Bloomberg. Warren has not made any endorsement for president yet.
The final two Democratic candidates need to secure 1,991 pledged delegates nationally to get the party’s nomination, otherwise the 771 superdelegates will vote.