A voter casts his ballot during the primary election in Ottawa, Illinois, March 2020
Daniel Acker / Reuters

The U.S. response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus offers the world a window onto its decentralized form of government. How the country conducts its 2020 election at a time of social distancing will showcase both how this system works and when it doesn’t. The lack of federal standards, rules, and laws in the primary process has already led to disparate outcomes, with some states, such as Arizona, holding primary elections with emergency modifications, and others, including Louisiana, postponing because they do not believe they are equipped to conduct their elections safely.

Delaying the general presidential election in

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