HAGATNA, Guam — Guam's governor has signed a law cancelling this week's primary election in the U.S. territory because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Democratic Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed a bill cancelling the primary scheduled for Saturday, Pacific Daily News reported.
Lawmakers passed the bill Thursday after the Guam Election Commission requested a postponement or cancellation, citing a lack of confidence the primary could be conducted safely during the pandemic.
The bill allowed all candidates to advance to the Nov. 3 general election, which is expected to be held as scheduled.
Voters who do not wish to leave home to vote in-person because of fears over the virus will be able to begin casting absentee ballots as early as mid-September.
Lawmakers previously canceled Guam primaries in 1994 and 2006, Republican Sen. Mary Torres said.
Legislators in July rejected a bill to cancel the primary election and instead voted to expand in-office and curbside absentee voting.
“Every vote counts," Democratic Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes, speaker of the Guam Legislature, said Thursday. “But the reality is Guam today currently has 676 active COVID cases. Yesterday we had a record rate of confirmed cases, at 136.”
More than 2,500 people already had cast early ballots for the primary, not including off-island ballots received by mail, election officials said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.