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March 17 Democratic primaries live updates: Biden sweeps Sanders as coronavirus casts shadow over vote

Tuesday's primaries were the first since Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus outbreak.

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Joe Biden defeated Bernie Sanders in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, NBC News projected Tuesday, opening up a nearly insurmountable delegate lead.

In Ohio, polls were ordered closed as a public health measure after a judge declined the governor's request to postpone the election. But contests in the other three states proceeded as scheduled Tuesday despite widespread fears over the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic.

The outbreak, which has sickened more than 5,000 people in the U.S., is thrusting the Democratic primary into uncertainty, with some states postponing their elections and the candidates forgoing rallies for virtual events.

Highlights from the March 17 Democratic primaries:

Live Blog

A note about NBC News polling for Tuesday's primaries

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the National Election Pool did not conduct in-person exit polls for Tuesday's primaries.

Instead, the National Election Pool, which includes NBC News, conducted a primary poll — a survey of voters conducted by telephone before Tuesday's vote. The survey asked who respondents would vote for and included questions to help explain voter attitudes and demographics, as an exit poll would. 

Check back throughout the night for results from the NBC News Primary Poll. 

Biden encourages mail-in or curbside voting

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5 things to watch as Arizona, Florida and Illinois vote during coronavirus mayhem

Democrats in three states will hold primaries Tuesday in the first big day of voting since the coronavirus upended vast swaths of American life and was declared a national emergency.

It is uncharted territory for Arizona, Florida and Illinois, which collectively award 441 delegates to the Democratic convention, more than one-fifth of what’s needed to clinch the nomination. Joe Biden leads Bernie Sanders by about 150 delegates, according to the latest NBC News count.

Here are five things to watch for on Tuesday.

Tuesday's pandemic primaries: Everything you need to know

Three states are holding Democratic primaries Tuesday -— the first since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic and a national emergency, paralyzing much of the country with shutdowns.

There were initially four states slated to vote, but Ohio's primary was called off Monday night after Gov. Mike DeWine filed suit to block it, citing concerns that poll workers could be exposed to the virus.

The St. Patrick's Day primaries are also the first since Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders faced off in a stripped down, one-on-one debate in Washington, D.C., on Sunday night.

Sanders faces an uphill battle in Tuesday's states — Hillary Clinton won all three while running against him in 2016, and won Ohio as well. Polling shows a possible Biden sweep.

Here's a look at what you need to know.

Democrats vote in Florida and more: What polls show for Biden, Sanders

Democrats are scheduled to vote in primaries for their presidential nominee in three states Tuesday, despite the coronavirus crisis that has locked much of the country in a standstill.

The pandemic's influence is already being felt in the electoral process — Ohio was supposed to be among the states where voting was happening Tuesday, but the primary was called off Monday night because of the health emergency. (Polling shows Joe Biden was poised for a big win in Ohio. An NBC News/Marist poll released Monday found likely Democratic primary voters supporting the former vice president over Bernie Sanders by a wide margin, 58 percent to 35 percent.)

Here's what the latest polling shows in the three states that are still going to the polls — and where 441 delegates are up for grabs.

Strengths and weaknesses of 5 possible Biden running mates

Joe Biden has vowed to choose a woman as his running mate if he's the Democratic presidential nominee. Here's a look at a shortlist of frequently mentioned potential candidates — each of whom would bring something different to the ticket.

It just depends on what the former vice president is looking for — age, ideology, race, experience and geography could all matter.

Here's who he might choose and why.

While Maryland delays primary, special election to replace Cummings will stay mail-in only

WASHINGTON — As Maryland delays most primary elections from late April to early June in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the state will not push back the special election aimed at replacing the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Instead, that election will go on as scheduled, but all voters will cast their ballot by mail. 

Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan made the announcement Tuesday as part of the larger decision to shift the state's primary elections from April 28 to June 2. He directed the state elections board to come up with a plan to conduct a June primary "in a way that protects public health and preserves the integrity of the democratic process." 

Read more here.

Primary states voting Tuesday take steps to limit coronavirus risks

The blue painter’s tape issued to poll workers in Cook County, Illinois, has a particularly important use this year: marking off 6-foot increments to make sure people maintain a safe distance from one another.

“It is our job to ensure the safety of those around us while we carry out our civic duty today,” tweeted County Clerk Karen Yarbrough.

Arizona, Florida and Illinois are proceeding with Tuesday’s primaries, but officials are stressing alternatives, such as voting by mail, and telling voters to be on the lookout for changes due to coronavirus precautions.

Polling places are also taking their own precautions.

Read the full story here.

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Sanders urges voters to stay safe