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:
- Key takeaways from the night: Biden marches toward the nomination.
- President Donald Trump officially became the Republican presumptive nominee.
- Here's what states are doing to limit coronavirus risks.
NBC News Primary Poll: 1 in 5 Sanders voters in Illinois can’t guarantee they’ll support Democratic nominee
One in 5 supporters of Bernie Sanders in Illinois can’t guarantee that they will vote for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in November, regardless of who that may be, according to results from the NBC News Primary Poll.
In contrast, just 6 percent of Joe Biden’s supporters in Tuesday's Illinois Democratic primary said the same.
Sanders tackles coronavirus in primary night speech
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Tuesday outlined his coronavirus proposals in a speech from his campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C. — items that include sending households $2,000 a month for the duration of the crisis.
Sanders opened his address by saying the country was "facing an unprecedented series of crises" that he believes will require a $2 trillion stimulus to avoid "economic catastrophe."
His lengthy list of proposals included government covering all coronavirus-related medical bills, speed up testing, invoke emergency powers to scale up production of supplies like surgical masks and ventilators, and provide substantial unemployment insurance to those who lose jobs as a result of the outbreak.
Sanders enters Tuesday's primaries trailing frontrunner Joe Biden in the NBC News projected delegate count.
NBC News Primary Poll: Biden wins Florida with support from older, moderate and black voters
Biden also won 83 percent of voters who said the quality that matters most in a candidate is someone who can unite the country, according to an NBC News Primary Poll. The NBC News Decision Desk projected at 8 p.m. ET, when polls closed, that Biden would beat Bernie Sanders in the Florida primary.
Biden was also the clear favorite among Florida voters who oppose Medicare for All, as well as those who want to return to former President Barack Obama’s policies.
Biden wins Florida, NBC News projects, but Illinois to early to call
Joe Biden wins the Florida Democratic primary, NBC News projects.
The Illinois Democratic primary is too early to call, according to NBC News.
With 77 percent of the Florida vote counted, Biden led Sanders 61 percent to 23 percent.
In Florida, 219 pledged delegates are up for grabs, making it the biggest prize of the contests on Tuesday night.
As of 8:10 p.m., Biden had received 126 of the state's delegates, while Sanders was awarded 17, according to NBC News.
In Illinois, 155 pledged delegates are at stake.
NBC News Primary Poll: Democratic voters want a candidate who can beat Trump
In line with other Democratic primary contest this year, a majority of voters on Tuesday across Florida, Arizona and Illinois said they would rather see the Democratic Party nominate a candidate who can beat President Donald Trump over someone who agrees with them on the issues, according to results from the NBC News Primary Poll.
In Florida, 66 percent of Democratic primary voters said they would rather someone who can beat Trump, compared to 65 percent in Arizona and 61 percent in Illinois.
Voters under 45 in those three states were more split than those over 45. Still, the majority of younger voters, too, said they preferred a candidate who can beat Trump.
NBC News Primary Poll: Florida voters trust Biden over Sanders to handle Social Security
Fifty-nine percent said they would trust Biden to handle Social Security, while 37 percent said they would trust Sanders.
NBC News Primary Poll: On immigration policy, Arizona voters nearly divided on whether to trust Biden or Sanders
Fifty-one percent said they would trust Biden, while 43 percent said they would trust Sanders.
DNC urges states to stick to primary schedule, adopt vote-by-mail instead
The Democratic National Committee is urging states with upcoming presidential primaries and caucuses to not reschedule their elections and instead adopt vote-by-mail in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
At least six states have so far have taken steps to postpone their primary contests as cities and states shut down amidst the pandemic, but the DNC instead said states should not bring "our democratic process to a halt" and allow people to vote early or by mail on the currently scheduled dates, since no one knows when the threat of the pandemic will subside.
"Eligible voters deserve certainty, safety, and accessibility," DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.
Perez said the easiest way to allow people to vote during the crisis would be mail-in-balloting, as well as no-excuse absentee voting, where a voter can drop off their completed ballot at a central location, or expanded days and hours for in-person voting to reduce lines.
Slightly more than half the states in the union have yet to vote in the Democratic presidential primary and all are required to select delegates to July's Democratic National Convention by June 20, under party bylaws.
States that don't comply with the rules can be penalized by having their slate of delegates diminished or even cut entirely. But Perez said the DNC may allow some "flexibility" in the process, given the extraordinary circumstances.
“The DNC will continue to monitor the situation and work with state parties around their delegate selection plans, specifically allowing flexibility around how states elect their delegates to the national convention once those delegates are allocated based on their primary or caucus results," Perez said.
NBC News Primary Poll: Florida voters trust Biden over Sanders to handle gun policy
In a state that has seen multiple mass shootings in recent years, 63 percent trust Biden to handle gun policy more than they trust Sanders; 27 percent trust Sanders more.
NBC News Primary Poll: Most Illinois voters worried about direction of economy
Most Illinois Democratic primary voters are worried about the direction of the nation’s economy in the next year, according to an NBC News Primary Poll.
Eighty-two percent said they are worried about the direction of the national economy, including 46 percent who are very worried about it. Eighteen percent said they are not worried.
NBC News Primary Poll: Majority of Illinois voters very concerned about coronavirus outbreak
Eighty-seven percent of Illinois voters said they are concerned about the outbreak, including a 53 percent majority who said they are very concerned.
Only 13 percent said they are not concerned about the effects of the outbreak.
Among those who are concerned, 65 percent are 45 or older, and 35 percent are under 45.