The White House on Sunday, Sept. 30 2018. Photo: Chas Hundley

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OREGON - When it comes to choosing a party nominee for president, primary elections in Oregon are usually a formality.

Primary elections are held so late — May 19 this year — in the cycle that the nominee is usually already decided, or (in this case) most candidates have been winnowed away already. In 2016, Donald Trump was already the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party by the time party members in Oregon got to cast their votes, and Bernie Sanders’ efforts to uncrown the eventual Democratic Party choice of Hilary Clinton was basically dead by the time those in the blue column voted. Sanders won the state, but he’d already laid off most of his campaign staff weeks before. 

But this year, 16 states and U.S. territories are postponing their primary elections due to concerns around the coronavirus, many after the Oregon primary election on May 19.

Oregon won’t be postponing the primary, a product of Oregon’s vote by mail system. 

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“Because Oregon votes by mail we do not have to be concerned about social distancing issues at polling places that so many other states are struggling with,” a press release from the Oregon Secretary of State’s office read. “Many states are looking to implement our vote by mail system as a safer way to conduct elections in November. Contingency plans are being prepared to deal with any impacts the COVID-19 virus may have on our election processes.”

Will Oregon finally have a more significant role in the Democratic Party choice for the presidential nominee? 

Not likely, says Jim Moore, director of political outreach at Forest Grove’s Pacific University. 

Moore says there are two main reasons why he believes that by the time May 19 rolls around, Oregon will still be just as important as in, say, 2016: 

“It looks like Biden has the nomination sewn up. Sanders not only has to hope for a miracle, he has already stopped the major outreach in his campaign like Facebook ads,” Moore said. 

Moore also noted that even if a nominee has not been chosen by the time Oregon votes, Oregon is now dwarfed by the state of Georgia, which moved their primary election to the same day as Oregon. 

Before Georgia moved their primary, Kentucky, with 46 delegates up for grabs compared to Oregon’s 52, was the only other state planning to vote on the same day. 

Kentucky has bumped their election to June 23. 

But now, with Georgia on the same day, their 105 delegates are worth more than twice Oregon’s delegates. 

“The big focus will be on Georgia and Biden gaining many more delegates than Sanders—which would more than outweigh any Sanders victory in Oregon,” said Moore.