Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang filed a lawsuit against New York State in federal court over the Board of Election’s recent decision to cancel its presidential primary in June.
Joined by seven New Yorkers who filed to serve as candidates for Yang’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention, the lawsuit argued that neither Yang nor the delegates should be taken off the ballot since they met the state requirement to stay on it.
“The New York State Board of Elections’ commissioners voted unanimously to cancel entirely the June 23, 2020, Democratic Presidential Primary, while allowing the other elections to continue. 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 six million, as it fundamentally denies them the right to choose our next candidate for the office of President of the United States,” the lawsuit reads, noting that the board can’t provide any “colorable justification as to why they canceled the presidential primary and not other federal or state primaries.”
New York presidential primary was originally scheduled for April 28, but was postponed to June 23 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The state’s Democratic election commissioners voted Monday to strip Sen. Bernie Sanders and nine other presidential candidates that were no longer actively seeking the presidency off the ballot, a new measure in the state law that allows the board of elections to do so if a candidate publicly suspends their campaign. They also argued the move was done for safety and resource purposes.
Democratic election commissioners, Douglas Kellner said the presidential primary served no significant purpose and was “essentially a beauty contest.”
“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,” Kellner said. “I think that it’s time for us to recognize that the presidential contest is over. Joe Biden is the only candidate and therefore, he has effectively won the New York primary.”
The move angered supporters of several candidates, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who publicly stated after dropping out that he wanted to remain on the ballot for the remaining primaries to accumulate delegates for the convention and exert more influence over the party’s platform and rules during the convention.
“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,” Jeff Weaver, Sanders senior adviser said in a statement. “No one asked New York to cancel the election. The DNC didn’t request it. The Biden campaign didn’t request it. And our campaign communicated that we wanted to remain on the ballot.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(D-NY) blasted the board for its decision, calling it “completely wrong.”
“It is completely wrong for the BOE to cancel New York’s Presidential Primary,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet. “This decision is not informed by public health: the state is still holding elections for every other seat that day, & so far the only way your ballot will 100% be counted in NY is to vote in person!”
New York’s primary could have been the best opportunity for Sanders to garner a sizeable number of delegates in the remaining primaries, with 274 pledged delegates at stake. Those delegates will now be allocated to Biden.
Following the lawsuit, Kellner said in a statement Tuesday night that Yang’s complaint “makes no mention” that New York law that allows for the removal of a candidate from the ballot if they are not actively seeking the presidency.
“We are confident that once the court reviews the statute and our resolution, it will find that Commissioner Andrew Spano and I acted appropriately in accordance with the governing provisions of the Election Law,” the statement read.