New York Must Hold Democratic Presidential Primary, Federal Judge Rules

May 6, 2020 by Dan McCue
A woman wears a face mask as she walks on Pier 45 in Hudson River Park, Thursday evening, April 30, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Election officials in New York State must hold a Democratic presidential primary election in June, with all qualifying candidates restored to the ballot, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres, who presides in the federal court in Manhattan, came in a lawsuit filed last week by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

Yang was seeking to reverse a New York State Board of Elections decision in late April to cancel the June 23 primary, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision infuriated Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. and his supporters, who hoped the contest would allow him to continue to amass delegates and influence the Democratic party platform at its national convention in August.

At the time, the board’s Democratic co-chairman, Douglas Kellner, brushed aside Sanders’ anger, saying the risks associated with the vote that had been scheduled for June 23 simply outweighed other concerns,

“What the Sanders campaign wanted is essentially a beauty contest that, given the situation with the public health emergency, seems to be unnecessary and, indeed, frivolous,” Kellner said.

The decision also angered Yang and a group of his delegates who said in a court filing that their rights had been violated when their names were removed from the presidential primary ballot and the primary was canceled.

Judge Torres agreed, holding that by purging their names from the ballot, the board of elections had caused them “irreparable injury.”

While Torres went on to acknowledge the state was justifiably concerned about protecting the public from the spread of the coronavirus, she said “the Court is not convinced that canceling the presidential primary would meaningfully advance that interest — at least not to the degree as would justify ‘infringing on the plaintiffs’ rights.”

Kellner said the board is “reviewing the decision and preparing an appeal.”

In a statement posted to Twitter Tuesday night, Yang said he was “glad that a federal judge agreed that depriving millions of New Yorkers of the right to vote was wrong,” and he urged state elections officials to safeguard democracy.

The Sanders campaign also released a statement. In it, his campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said, “We’re glad Judge Torres has restored basic democracy in New York. People in every state should have the right to express their preference in the 2020 Democratic primary. We have confidence that New York can hold elections in June in a safe manner that preserves New Yorkers’ right to vote.”

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