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27 Apr, 2020 19:47

‘Unnecessary & frivolous’ or blatant coronation? New York cancels Dems presidential primary to outcry by Sanders supporters

‘Unnecessary & frivolous’ or blatant coronation? New York cancels Dems presidential primary to outcry by Sanders supporters

New York has canceled its Democratic presidential primary, citing challenger Bernie Sanders’ recent endorsement of presumed nominee Joe Biden and the risk of coronavirus transmission. Sanders’ supporters have cried foul.

New York Democratic election commissioners voted to remove Sanders and nine other candidates from the ballot on Monday, leaving Biden as the sole candidate for the party’s 2020 nomination and effectively canceling the primary altogether. A recently-passed state law permits the removal of candidates from the ballot if they suspend or end their campaigns.

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Sanders and his supporters have pushed back against the decision, pointing out that the law was passed after Sanders qualified for the New York ballot and insisting it should not apply to him. While the Vermont senator suspended his campaign weeks ago and endorsed Biden, he vowed to continue collecting delegates in the hope of being able to pressure the party into adopting measures from his own platform during the nominating convention. New York has 274 delegates that would have been up for grabs.

Acknowledging that canceling the primary was “a very difficult decision,” Commissioner Doug Kellner nevertheless insisted it would have been “unnecessary and frivolous” to hold the vote given that Sanders had essentially dropped out. The other Democratic commissioner, Andrew Spano, admitted that “Sanders has run two times and [has] a significant amount of supporters that want to say something,” but implied the risk of spreading coronavirus outweighed their need to be heard.

Sanders’ supporters warned that while the candidate and many of his supporters had fallen in line behind Biden, silencing their voices might not end well for the party’s anointed pick. “Suppressing the Sanders vote in New York will again lead to attacks on the Party across the nation and harm the volunteer effort that our group and others are building for Joe Biden,” Our Revolution chair Larry Cohen wrote in a letter to the state Board of Elections on Sunday. Sanders' supporters had flooded the board with calls and emails in the hope of avoiding a primary cancellation. 

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While 16 other states have postponed their own nominating contests amid the coronavirus pandemic, New York is the first to do away with the vote entirely. Governor Andrew Cuomo had initially postponed the primary from Tuesday to June 23 as the state wrestled with the country’s largest number of coronavirus cases. He has since canceled several special elections scheduled for that date and issued an executive order that would mail out applications for absentee ballots to eligible voters in the remaining primaries.

Progressives took to social media to voice their rage at the decision, with many pointing out that canceling the vote set a dangerous precedent.

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