Bernie Sanders Assails New York’s Decision to Cancel Its Primary

New York canceled its June 23 presidential primary in response to the coronavirus pandemic, citing a state law that permits the vote to be called off if the races are uncontested.

Bernie Sanders’s campaign said the decision was an “outrage,” and called upon the Democratic National Committee to reverse it.

Sixteen states and one territory have postponed votes or moved to mail-only ballots, but New York is the first state to cancel its primary altogether. It was initially slated to hold the vote on April 28 but that was postponed until June by Governor Andrew Cuomo in late March. State election officials said they decided to call off the election to protect public health and because Joe Biden was unopposed for the Democratic nomination after Sanders’s withdrawal from the race earlier this month.

Sanders has endorsed Biden, but wants to stay on the ballot in the remaining primaries to rack up delegates for influence at the convention.

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“Today’s decision by the state of New York Board of Elections is an outrage, a blow to American democracy, and must be overturned by the DNC,” Sanders campaign adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement. “Just last week, Vice President Biden warned the American people that President Trump could use the current crisis as an excuse to postpone the November election. Well, he now has a precedent thanks to New York state.”

Weaver added that the decision was not requested by either campaign or the DNC and demanded that New York switch to vote by mail instead.

“New York has clearly violated its approved delegate selection plan. 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,” Weaver said.

New York state sends 320 delegates to the Democratic nominating convention.

David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said New York’s allocation of delegates would need to be approved by the party.

“Any substantive change to a state’s first determining step in allocating delegates like this one will need to be reviewed by the DNC’s Rules and By-Laws Committee,” Bergstein said. “Once the state party submits an updated selection plan on how they plan on allocating delegates, the committee will look at that plan and make a determination.”

New York Board of Elections Commissioner Andrew Spano, a Democrat, said he had concluded there was no point in moving forward with the primary “just for the purposes of issues at a convention.”

Board of Elections Co-Chair Douglas Kellner, also a Democrat, said that Sanders’s withdrawal from the race and his endorsement “effectively ended the real contest” for the nomination. “What the Sanders supporters want is essentially a beauty contest that, given the situation with the public health emergency that exists now, seems to be unnecessary and indeed frivolous,” Kellner said.

New York has been the state hardest hit in the U.S. by Covid-19 with 288,045 confirmed cases as of Monday and 22,376 deaths -- triple that of New Jersey, the state which has had the second biggest number of fatalities and cases.

At least 10 people in Wisconsin contracted the virus after voting in the state’s primary election earlier this month that was held despite attempts to postpone it by the governor.

— With assistance by Keshia Clukey

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