A federal judge has ordered New York to reinstate plans to hold its Democratic presidential primary in June, ruling in favor of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
The Democratic commissioners of the state Board of Elections decided to cancel the primary last week, concluding that every candidate except former Vice President Joe Biden had ended their campaigns. Yang quickly sued, saying the cancellation “denies voters the right to vote.”
In a decision issued Tuesday night, Judge Analisa Torres agreed with Yang while also addressing concerns the state raised about holding a seemingly meaningless contest in the midst of a pandemic.
“[R]emoving Yang, [Bernie] Sanders, and other candidates from the Democratic primary ballot will protect the public from covid-19 only to a limited extent,” she wrote. But prohibiting the candidates and their supporters “from participating in an election for party delegates will sharply curtail their associational rights.”
After the primary was delayed from April 28 to June 23, the state budget gave the Board of Elections the power to remove candidates who had suspended their campaigns. The move was characterized as a way for the state to save money and avoid opening a poll site if there wasn’t actually a race, which would also have the benefit of reducing crowds at the polls during the age of social distancing.
Torres did not agree that the pandemic required cancellation of the primary.
“[T]hough all states are impacted by the current public health crisis, and some have rescheduled their presidential primary elections in light of coivd-19, New York is the only one to have canceled its primary, casting further doubt on Defendants’ contention that scrapping the primary is necessary to combat the risk posed by the virus,” she wrote.
And she agreed with Yang’s supporters that the election of delegates is still important, even if the candidate they’re pledged to is no longer running.
“[T]he removal of presidential contenders from the primary ballot not only deprived those candidates of the chance to garner votes for the Democratic Party’s nomination, but also deprived their pledged delegates of the opportunity to run for a position where they could influence the party platform, vote on party governance issues, pressure the eventual nominee on matters of personnel or policy, and react to unexpected developments at the Convention,” the decision says. “And it deprived Democratic voters of the opportunity to elect delegates who could push their point of view in that forum.”
A board commissioner did not immediately respond when asked about the possibility of appeals.