New York presidential primary cancellation sparks progressive fury
The decision to cancel New York’s Democratic presidential primary in June is sparking backlash from progressives, potentially threatening the party’s goal of unifying its voters ahead of the general election.
Progressives argue the vote from Democrats on the State Board of Elections deprives their wing of the party from voicing their preference ahead of the Democratic National Convention in August.
While Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) suspended his campaign and endorsed former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE earlier this month, he plans to stay on the ballots in remaining contests in an effort to gather enough delegates to exert pressure on the party to adopt more progressive platforms at the convention.
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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 go to Biden as the only candidate remaining in the presidential race.
Sanders’s senior adviser Jeff Weaver called the move “a blow to democracy” in a statement reacting to the move on Monday.
“No one asked New York to cancel the election,” Weaver said. “The DNC [Democratic National Committee] did not request it. The Biden campaign did not request it. And our campaign communicated that we wanted to remain on the ballot.”
Officials from the New York State Democratic Party argue the move was done for safety and resource purposes after the coronavirus pandemic shut down large parts of the country. No other state has yet canceled their Democratic presidential primary, though Republicans have canceled 2020 primaries and caucuses in South Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, Alaska and Kansas in order to throw the maximum amount of support behind President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE.
“We shouldn’t have nonessential primaries. There is only one candidate who is running,” New York Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs said.
New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoNo, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ Attorney says 75-year-old man shoved by Buffalo police suffered brain injury Buffalo officials ask state to re-examine 2008 firing of black police officer who stopped white officer’s chokehold MORE (D) said he was not going to second-guess the State Board of Elections but said, “I know there are a lot of election employees … who are nervous about conducting elections.”
Sanders’s allies have pledged to take the issue up with the DNC ahead of the party’s gathering in August.
“We will not stand by and allow New York Democrats to be denied the opportunity to influence their party and its platform at the convention in August,” Our Revolution, a Sanders-aligned group, said in a statement. “We will be forced to go to the credentials committee and challenge any delegates that New York sends to the convention.”
The backlash comes as Democrats work to unify around Biden in their effort to defeat Trump after the primary race in 2016 between former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE and Sanders split the party. However, Monday’s vote to cancel the election risks fueling skepticism among progressive voters already wary of the Democratic establishment.
“It further fractures the party, which is the opposite of what we need to be doing,” said Lindsey Boylan, a progressive who is challenging House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerPhilonise Floyd asks Congress to deliver justice for his brother Floyd’s brother to testify in front of House Judiciary Committee hearing on police brutality House Judiciary Committee to hold hearing on police brutality next week MORE (D-N.Y.) in the state’s Democratic primary.
Progressives say they feel that the move by New York will prevent their movement, led by Sanders, from pushing for policies like “Medicare for All” and tuition-free college at the convention, fueling bitterness toward an establishment that they say has not yet taken their demands seriously.
“That’s what progressives really think,” Boylan said. “That the Democratic leadership is not hearing and is not listening.”
New York progressives argue that the workaround for voting in the pandemic could have been conducting the primary entirely by vote-by-mail, going further than Cuomo’s recent executive order requiring state election officials to send postage-paid absentee ballot applications to all voters.
Other congressional and legislative races will be held on June 23 after the state delayed its primary from its original date in April.
“The answer to that isn’t to cancel an election,” said Abdul El-Sayed, who supported Sanders in the primary. “The answer to that is to facilitate voting from home. The fact that the Board of Elections elected to do the former rather than the latter, elect to cancel the election, suggests that they are not up to the task and they don’t appreciate the gravity of what they’re dealing with.”
Additionally, progressives have not forgotten about a proposal from the state’s Public Finance Commission last year that would raise the vote threshold third parties need to obtain a spot on the ballot, affecting progressive third parties like the Working Families Party.
But proponents of the primary’s cancellation dismiss claims that there is a bigger effort to silence progressives ahead of the party’s convention.
“There’s no conspiracy. There’s no lack of transparency. It’s just that the primary is over. New York is in the state that it is in because of the pandemic, and that’s the unfortunate situation where we find ourselves,” said Jon Reinish, a former aide to Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Warren, Pressley introduce bill to make it a crime for police officers to deny medical care to people in custody Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers MORE (D-N.Y.).
Proponents maintain there was not enough capacity to hold the presidential primary given concerns over the state’s budget and its status as the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, and they note that Biden would have been the likely winner anyway.
“Here in Monroe County, they [were] scrambling to find polling locations,” said Alex Yudelson, chief of staff to the mayor of Rochester, N.Y., and a candidate for New York’s State Assembly. “Some of the polling locations were in senior homes, and they don’t want people in senior homes, so they’re struggling to find new locations. They’re struggling to find people who want to work as election inspectors.”
He added that while he thinks working toward vote-by-mail elections is a good goal, it would be logistically challenging for New York to make that change quickly.
“With this election less than two months away, I think it would be hard for our Board of Elections and boards of election across the state to just turn around on a dime and administer the first ever all vote-by-mail election [in the state],” he said.
However, Yudelson said he empathized with Sanders supporters wanting a bigger platform at the convention, citing his status as a delegate for former presidential candidate Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegScaled-back Pride Month poses challenges for fundraising, outreach Biden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE.
“I would have still loved to vote for delegates for Pete so that someone like him can have an increased voice at the convention, so I certainly understand why people would be frustrated by this,” he said. “I’m just not sure there was any good scenario here, and sometimes that’s the case in a situation like this. In one case you’re jeopardizing public health, and in the other, you’re jeopardizing what people feel is a Democratic right to select those delegates.”