New York Postpones Primary, Risking Loss of Delegates

March 30, 2020 by Dan McCue
Seventh Ave near West 42nd Street is seen devoid of people and traffic during the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the rate of increase of coronavirus cases in New York has grown, and the rate of new infections is doubling every three days. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News/TNS)

New York is postponing its April 28 presidential primary until June 23, a late date that places it at risk of forfeiting some of its delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee.

The reason for the delay, which was announced Saturday, is the coronavirus outbreak

“I don’t think it’s wise to bring a lot of people to one location to vote, a lot of people touching one doorknob, a lot of people touching one pen,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news conference.

The date was selected because congressional and state legislative primaries had already been scheduled for June 23.

More than a dozen other states have rescheduled their primary elections as the campaign calendar has been upended by the outbreak, citing guidance from health officials who have urged people to practice social distancing and to avoid gathering in large groups in public spaces, including polling places.

As reported Friday by The Well News, a number of states, including Rhode Island, are also moving to hold their elections either wholly or in part by mail.

But almost all of these states moved their presidential primary to June 2, setting up one last “Super Tuesday” of the 2020 Democratic Primary season, and meeting a June 9 deadline for voting set by the DNC.

Earlier this month, the co-chairs of the party’s rules and bylaws committee sent a memo to state elections officials to carefully consider whether to postpone their elections at all, and warning those that do could be subject to penalties – including a 50% reduction in delegates – if they hold primaries after a June cut-off date.

The memo continued: “The Delegate Selection Rules provide that each state’s first determining step must take place by 9 June. If a state violates the rule on timing, or any other rule, they could be subject to penalties as prescribed in Rule 21, including at least a 50% reduction in delegates, which will need to be reviewed by the [rules and bylaw committee].

“The deadline to elect convention participants is 20 June, so state parties should have plenty of time to elect their delegates, alternates and standing committee members,” the memo said.

County elections officials across New York State had been seeking a delay in the primary for several days, describing the alternative — proceeding as planned with an April primary — as a logistical nightmare.

On Monday, Dustin Czarny, Democratic Caucus Chair for the New York State Election Commissioners Association, told The Well News, “the health of our voters and inspectors was paramount and for that reason it was imperative the election was moved.  

“I believe the DNC will do the right thing by New York and make sure our full delegation is seated,” Czarny said, adding that while election commissioners have no say in private party decisions, “it would seem only fair in this ongoing health crisis the DNC will allow this exception.”

While the debate over moving the primary raged, many called for Sen. Bernie Sanders to withdraw, thinking it would render a primary unnecessary. However, election officials point out that the New York State ballot was sent some time ago and Sanders — as well as others who have withdrawn from the race — remain on it.

The state’s Republican primary, which would also have been held on April 28, was called off in March after President Donald Trump was the only candidate who qualified to appear on the ballot.

The State Board of Elections had explored the possibility of holding New York’s primary entirely by mail, but the board’s staff concluded that county elections offices were not geared up to process huge volumes of mail-in ballots.

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