ATLANTA - Georgia House Speaker David Ralston is asking Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to delay the May 19 primaries because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter dated Thursday, Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, suggested holding the primaries no earlier than June 23.

“You and I both agree that the right to vote is one of our most cherished freedoms,” the speaker wrote. “It is a right which, to the extent possible, should be free of impact from circumstances which create obstacles to its exercise.

“However, the inescapable truth is that we do not know the duration of the immediate health peril. Reputable scientists and physicians cannot agree on its duration.”

Raffensperger already has postponed Georgia’s presidential primary, which was to have been held this week. Under the current timetable, the presidential voting would take place May 19 in conjunction with the state’s congressional and legislative primaries.

Earlier this week, the secretary of state announced that every Georgia voter would receive an absentee ballot request form, so they could cast their primary ballots by mail and not risk exposing themselves or others to the virus.

Ralston praised Raffensperger for coming up with a plan to accommodate the public health concerns generated by the COVID-19 outbreak. But the speaker said delaying the vote until the summer could allow voting to take place as usual.

“Pushing the primary back a month or more gives us more time to allow the situation to improve so that voters can vote in the manner in which they are most familiar,” he wrote. “More importantly, it would make our highest priority the health and safety not only of voters, but our hard-working poll workers and elections officials.”

Raffensperger declined comment on the letter.

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