CHICAGO — Former Vice President Joe Biden won the Illinois Democratic primary for president, beating Sen. Bernie Sanders in an election marred by coronavirus concerns, polling confusion and low voter turnout.
The Associated Press called the Illinois race for Biden just after 7:20 p.m., only 20 minutes after most polls closed in the state. Some polling places stayed open until 8 p.m. to make up for long lines and other difficulties.
By Wednesday morning, Biden had 59 percent of the statewide vote compared to Sanders’ 36 percent, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, according to CNN.
In Chicago, Sanders performed better than he did statewide, but still trailed Biden. With 77 percent of precincts reporting, Biden led Sanders 50.43 percent to 45.52 percent, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.
Biden was the heavy favorite to win Illinois and Tuesday’s other primary elections in Arizona and Florida, moving the former senator and vice president much closer to securing the Democratic nomination for president. Some polls ahead of election day showed Biden with a 34-point lead over Sanders.
Biden also won the Florida Democratic primary, according to CNN.
Most of Chicago and Illinois’ political heavyweights endorsed Biden, including Gov. JB Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.
Sanders, a University of Chicago alumni, made a big push in Illinois, including a March 7 rally that drew massive crowds to Grant Park.
The Vermont senator made an early campaign stop in Chicago, speaking to 12,500 people at Navy Pier in March 2019. Sanders was a vocal supporter of striking Chicago teachers, but failed to secure the Chicago Teachers Union endorsement after the union split between he and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Tuesday’s primary election in Illinois was upended by the coronavirus outbreak, which just days prior caused Pritzker to outlaw gatherings of 50 or more people. Pritzker faced calls to postpone the election, as Ohio and Lousiana have done.
The outbreak caused for polling places to shift at the eleventh hour, with officials moving them from places like senior centers to protect the health of the elderly. Chicago also faced a severe election judge shortage, and reports of hours-long wait times to vote were seen in some areas of the city.
Local turnout in the election was “extremely low” throughout the day, election officials said. As of 3 p.m. just 173,720 people has cast ballots.
At the same time, there’s been better turnout among people who voted early and voted by mail: Nearly 118,000 vote-by-mail ballots have come in and more than 171,000 people voted early — including 25,781 just on Monday.
In 2016, Sanders barely lost the Illinois Democratic presidential primary to Illinois native Hillary Clinton, 50.5 percent to 48.7 percent.