Last week, a storm began brewing over the New York Board of Elections announcing the cancellation of the state’s presidential preference primary which had been rescheduled for June 23. Lawsuits were filed almost immediately, notable by businessman and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and assisted by the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
With the Sanders campaign and remnants of the Yang campaign working together, a judge hearing the case in Manhattan ruled that the state must hold the presidential primary as it was originally scheduled, on June 23:
A federal judge restored the New York Democratic presidential primary, ruling Tuesday that its cancellation by the New York State Board of Elections last month was unconstitutional.
The order from U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres returns all qualifying presidential candidates — including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders — to the primary ballot and mandates that the election must take place June 23, as previously scheduled.
Last month, New York state — the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic — took the unprecedented step of canceling its presidential primary, citing coronavirus concerns. Tuesday’s opinion followed a legal challenge filed by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and a group of delegates aiming to reverse the cancellation. Lawyers for Sanders and Yang presented arguments in Manhattan Monday.
“If all but one of the presidential candidates are removed from the ballot and the primary is not held, Delegate Plaintiffs will be deprived of the opportunity to compete for delegate slots and shape the course of events at the Convention, and voters will lose the chance to express their support for delegates who share their views,” Judge Torres wrote in her ruling, adding, “The loss of these First Amendment rights is a heavy hardship.”
Amazingly — or perhaps unsurprisingly — the Board of Elections is seeking to appeal the decision and still pushing to do away with the presidential primary. The ironic part of the story is that no other primaries have been canceled in the state. There are races for congressional seats which would have still taken place on June 23 even if the presidential primary was scrapped.
The other part of the story is that the Board of Elections also voted to remove all candidates from the ballot, except for Joe Biden, since the other campaigns have dropped out. The result would have been Biden taking all 274 of the state’s delegates. If it was only Biden on the ballot, the Board of Elections argued, then there is no need to hold a primary in the name preventing the Coronavirus spread.
As Yang’s attorney’s argued though, disenfranchising voters by letting an unelected state bureaucracy award delegates and cancel voting is rather, well, undemocratic:
The lawsuit filed by Yang alleged New York’s presidential primary cancellation would result in “disenfranchising hundreds of persons” and “suppressing voter turnout” to the detriment of down ballot candidates.
“I’m glad that a federal judge agreed that depriving millions of New Yorkers of the right to vote was wrong,” Yang said in a statement, in response to Tuesday’s ruling. “I hope that the New York Board of Elections takes from this ruling a newfound appreciation of their role in safeguarding our democracy.”
The issue is still not entirely settled since the ruling could be headed for appeal. However, it’s difficult to see a higher court agreeing that taking away primary voting for one office, especially when primary voting will still take place for lower offices, is a fair decision from the Board of Elections.
With eight names being restored to the ballot, and the primary now allowed to take place on June 23, voters in the Empire State will get a voice restored in the process.