Federal Judge Rules New York Reinstate Presidential Primary

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A federal judge late Tuesday evening ordered election officials in New York State to restore the Democratic presidential primary in June and reinstate all the former candidates previously removed from the ballot.

In a 30-page ruling, District Judge Analisa Torres of the Southern District of New York, an Obama appointee wrote that New York State Board of Election in scraping the primary violated and “deprived” White House presidential contenders the “associational rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.”

“The Court concludes … that the Democratic Commissioners’ April 27 Resolution in removing Yang, Sanders, and eight other Democratic presidential candidates from the ballot deprived them of associational rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution,” Torres wrote in her opinion ruling. 

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In granting a preliminary injunction, the New York State Board of Elections must now “reinstate the Democratic primary ballot those presidential and delegate candidates who were duly qualified as of April 26, 2020, and to hold the primary election on June 23, 2020.” She added that the removal of presidential contenders “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.”

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) issued an executive order in March postponing the presidential primary from April 28 to June 23 in response to the growing coronavirus cases that plagued the state. The date was chosen to align it with the state’s congressional and legislative primaries.

Democrats on the state board of elections voted last week to strip Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and nine other presidential candidates that suspended their campaigns, leaving Vice President Joe Biden the de-facto winner of the nominating contest. They argued “that there was no purpose in holding a beauty contest primary” and canceled the presidential primary. However, New York was still planning to hold its congressional and state-level primaries on June 23.

The federal judge said the court was “not convinced” over the concerns about public health to justify such cancelation and that New York “has sufficient time to take necessary steps to protect voters.”

The decision ultimate granted Biden all 274 New York pledged delegates, a move that angered Sanders who publicly stated after dropping out in early that he wanted to remain on the ballot in the last few postponed primaries to accumulate delegates to exert more influence over the party’s platform and rules during the Democratic National Convention in August.

Former presidential candidate, Andrew Yang and seven New Yorkers who hoped to serve as his delegates to the Convention quickly filed a lawsuit, arguing that the cancellation “denies voters due process and denies voters the right to vote.” 

Lawyers for Sanders and Yang presented arguments in Manhattan on Monday. They noted that the candidates didn’t ask for their names to be removed from the ballot. Torres, in her ruling sided with the plaintiffs, citing “the loss of these First Amendment rights is a heavy hardship.”

She added: “There is also a strong public interest in permitting the presidential primary to proceed with the full roster of qualified candidates.”

Yang praised the judge’s order decision in a tweet, and hoped “that the New York Board of Elections takes from this ruling a newfound appreciation of their role in safeguarding our democracy.”

The Sanders campaign also applauded the decision. 

“We’re glad Judge Torres has restored basic democracy in New York,” Former Sanders’s campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a statement. “People in every state should have the right to express their preference in the 2020 Democratic primary. We have confidence that New York can hold elections in June in a safe manner that preserves New Yorkers’ right to vote.”

Shortly after the ruling, Douglas A. Kellner, the Democratic co-chair of the New York Board of Elections, said the board was “reviewing the decision and preparing an appeal.”