New York must hold Democratic presidential primary despite coronavirus pause, appeals court rules

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Former Democratic presidential Andrew Yang speaks at the University of Chicago on December 5, 2019. - Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune/TNS

NEW YORK — The coronavirus pandemic cannot stop New York’s Democratic presidential primary, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday — and state election officials said they plan to go ahead with the election June 23.

The Manhattan-based 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said it would detail its legal reasoning in a decision to be released soon.

A Manhattan federal court judge ruled on May 5 that the state Board of Elections’ decision to cancel the primary due to the outbreak wrongly stripped registered Democrats in New York of their right to elect delegates and influence policy at the party convention.

A three-judge panel on the appeals court wrote that it was reinstating the primary “for substantially the same reasons” as the lower court.

Though the Board of Elections canceled the presidential primary, it allowed down-ballot races to go ahead.

The legal challenge to the board’s ruling came from entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race in February.

He argued that even though Joe Biden is the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, the cancellation of the primary was a violation of the constitutional rights of other candidates, including Bernie Sanders, to participate in the political process by collecting delegates.

“Thrilled that democracy has prevailed for the voters of New York!” Yang tweeted.

Further appeals were possible — but the Board of Elections was done fighting the case.

The board “decided not to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court so we can focus all of our attention on the daunting tasks of managing the primary election in a way that minimizes the risks to the public and to election workers,” said board co-chairman Douglas Kellner.

Voters should “take advantage of Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo’s executive orders to permit the widespread use of absentee ballots during the public health emergency,” Kellner’s statement said.

A dozen Sanders delegates joined Yang’s lawsuit after it was filed. The Vermont senator’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, praised Tuesday’s ruling.

“(W)e expect New York to work to make voting safe, rather than wasting taxpayer money trying to disenfranchise New York voters,” Shakir said. “This ruling is a victory for democracy. Congratulations go to Andrew Yang, his delegates, and our delegates for standing up to this abuse of power.”

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