New York State must hold a Democratic presidential primary on June 23 — even though former Vice President Joe Biden is the only candidate actively seeking the nomination amid the coronavirus pandemic, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.
The state Board of Elections had previously voted to cancel the presidential primary, arguing it’s especially unnecessary during a pandemic because Biden is the only active candidate in the race after Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign and endorsed the former vice president.
But the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruling upheld the recent lower May 5 court decision by federal district Judge Analisa Torres, who ordered New York Democrats to reinstate the presidential primary election after one-time candidate Andrew Yang challenged its cancellation.
She ruled that the state board’s decision to cancel the vote was unconstitutional and that all qualified candidates as of April 26 must be on the ballot.
The elections board appealed the ruling with the backing of the state Democratic Party, largely influenced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Biden ally.
The three-judge appeals panel rejected the appeal.
“After reviewing the record, we affirm the order granting the application for a preliminary injunction for substantially the reasons given by the District Court in its thorough May 5, 2020 Opinion and Order,” said the ruling signed by Circuit Judges Amalya Kearse, Dennis Jacob and Jose Cabranes.
“We have reviewed all of the remaining arguments raised by Defendants on appeal and find them to be without merit. For the foregoing reasons, we AFFIRM the May 5, 2020 order of the District Court.”
Even though he suspended his presidential campaign and endorsed Biden, Sanders’ name will be on the ballot. The Vermont senator and his supporters argued that a New York primary should be held because votes and delegates he accumulates can be used as leverage to influence the policies of Biden and the Democratic Party for the general election.
State Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs — a close ally of the Biden-backing Cuomo — threw in the towel Tuesday.
“I’m disappointed with the ruling. But we’re going to hold the primary,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs had argued the presidential primary election was unnecessary — and risky — during the pandemic. He said many of the poll workers and voters are elderly and at risk during the COVID-outbreak
But New York is allowing primary voters the option to vote by mail ballot.
And the polls will be open for other races on June 23. There are also primaries for Congress and state legislative offices.