Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is suing the New York State Board of Elections after the state became the first in the country to cancel its presidential primary over COVID-19 concerns.
The suit, obtained by Politico and filed in federal court on Tuesday by Yang and seven New York residents who’d intended to serve as his delegates to the Democratic National Convention, accuses the election commission of denying “voters due process and … the right to vote.”
“This unprecedented and unwarranted move infringes the rights of Plaintiffs and all New York State Democratic Party voters, of which there are estimated to be more than 6 million, as it fundamentally denies them the right to choose our next candidate for the office of President of the United States,” the complaint states.
The suit also argues that nixing the primary could impact down-ballot candidates as “voters will have less incentive to vote if they cannot cast a vote for the highest office in the land, and thereby negatively impact challenger candidates.”
New York originally postponed its Democratic presidential primary ― moving it from April 28 to June 23 ― over coronavirus fears. The state’s Board of Elections said this week, however, that it had voted to cancel it entirely after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) dropped out of the presidential race, leaving former Vice President Joe Biden as the last Democratic contender standing.
State and congressional primaries are still expected to go ahead in June; but as The New York Times noted, about one-third of New York’s counties have no other primaries scheduled, so voters in those counties will no longer need to go to the polls.
“At a time when the goal is to avoid unnecessary social contact, our conclusion was that there was no purpose in holding a beauty contest primary that would marginally increase the risk to both voters and poll workers,” Douglas Kellner, one of the board’s Democratic commissioners, told CNN of the decision to cancel the presidential primary.
He added that Sanders’ departure from the race “basically rendered the primary moot.”
But Sanders ― and Yang ― had wanted the presidential primary to go ahead.
As Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to Sanders, noted, “the primary process not only leads to [a presidential nominee] but also the selection of delegates which helps determine the platform and rules of the Democratic Party.”
“New York has clearly violated its approved delegate selection plan,” Weaver said in a statement. “If this is not remedied, New York should lose all its delegates to the 2020 Democratic National Convention and there should be a broader review by the Democratic Party of New York’s checkered pattern of voter disenfranchisement.”
Sanders had said previously that he wants to keep amassing delegates so he can exert influence on the party platform on issues like “Medicare for all” and climate change, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Following the election board’s decision, Biden is expected to get all of New York’s 274 pledged delegates, The Hill noted.
But Jay Jacobs, the chairman of the New York Democratic Party, said this week that he hoped to find a way to allocate some delegates to Sanders.
“What we’re going to do in discussions with the Biden campaign and the Sanders campaign is try to come up with some fair allocation, so that the delegates that go to the convention will have Sanders’ voices as well, as they would have had had we had the primary,” Jacobs said.
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