New York Removes Sanders from Primary Ballot against Campaign’s Wishes
“Today’s decision is an outrage, a blow to American democracy, and must be overturned by the DNC.”
When Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign for President, he announced a strategy to continue to amass delegates, “while Vice President Biden will be the nominee, we must continue working to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic convention, where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions.”
The strategy to push the Democratic Party to the left took a huge blow yesterday as the New York State Board of Elections announced they would remove Sanders and leave only Biden on the ballot in the state’s primary election, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, Bernie 2020 Senior Advisor Jeff Weaver said, “today’s decision is an outrage, a blow to American democracy, and must be overturned by the DNC.”
Douglas Kellner, a co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, told NPR, “what the Sanders campaign wanted is essentially a beauty contest that, given the situation with the public health emergency, seems to be unnecessary and, indeed, frivolous.”
However, important state and local elections are also set to take place and the decision to remove the presidential primary will likely depress turnout for these elections.
Jamaal Bowman, a primary challenger endorsed by the Justice Democrats, told The New York Times, I’m worried that this could depress turnout among younger voters in my primary challenge. This is terrible for our democracy and our party.”
The New York Board of Elections had already pushed back primaries from April 28th to June 23rd due to the coronavirus pandemic. Several other states pushed ahead with their primaries, including Wisconsin on April 7th, which saw mass voter disenfranchisement and which has had dozens of coronavirus cases traced to it.
With a massive lead, the Biden campaign saw no reason to call for the election to be postponed until after the primary had already taken place, and Republicans in the state legislature pushed for the election to go ahead without expanded vote-by-mail options.
New York has had time to learn from the pitfalls of previous states, but it has seemed to similarly opt for a route of disenfranchisement in favor of expanded vote-by-mail.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents New York’s 14th congressional district, said, “NY is still holding primary elections on June 23rd. This decision does not change the fact that people will still be going outside to vote. If NY doesn’t want to risk possibly millions of ppl voting in-person, we need to mail everyone a ballot. Not an application for one.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Friday directing the Board of Elections to send all voters an application to register to vote absentee.
Despite the executive order from Cuomo, in-person polls will still be open to accommodate those who did not apply for absentee voting. Currently, five states, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington conduct most of their elections by mail.
Without robust and expanded vote-by-mail elections, the 2020 general election in November continues to be cast into doubt.
“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,” said Weaver.
The Biden campaign came out in favor of postponing elections to ensure all mail voting after the Wisconsin primary. Ahead of primaries on March 17, Biden tweeted, “if you are feeling healthy, not showing symptoms, and not at risk of being exposed to COVID-19: please vote on Tuesday.”
Republicans and President Trump have expressed their aversion to mail ballots with the President commenting, “I think a lot of people cheat” by submitting their ballots through the mail.
Thus far, Congress has failed to pass legislation to expand vote-by-mail and absentee voting ahead of November’s general election.