Politics

New York Board of Elections strikes Sanders from ballot, cancels Democratic presidential primary

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Key Points
  • The New York State Board of Elections on Monday canceled the state's presidential primary, scheduled for June 23, after striking Sen. Bernie Sanders' name from the primary ballot. 
  • "I think it's time for us to recognize that the presidential contest is over," Commissioner Doug Kellner said while explaining the decision.
  • New York, with its 274 pledged delegates, gave Sanders one of his better chances to rack up some delegates.
Nick Oxford | Reuters

The New York State Board of Elections on Monday canceled its Democratic presidential primary, scheduled for June 23, after striking Sen. Bernie Sanders' name from the ballot.

The board said it made the move in an effort to protect New Yorkers during the coronavirus outbreak, which has hit the state harder than any other in the nation. 

Now, voters in about 20 counties that had no other contests on their ballot will not have to go to the polls, according to The New York Times.

"I think it's time for us to recognize that the presidential contest is over," Commissioner Doug Kellner explained during a livestream announcing the decision.

Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, dropped out of the presidential race on April 13 and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, who built a near-insurmountable lead in pledged delegates after several key wins.

Despite dropping out, Sanders urged his followers to vote for him in the remaining primaries in order to pick up delegates and influence the party platform at the Democratic National Convention, which is slated for August. He and his supporters have pushed for Biden, now the apparent nominee, to embrace more liberal proposals on a range of issues.

Sanders' campaign in a statement called the decision "an outrage" and a "blow to American democracy," urging the Democratic National Committee to overturn it.

"While we understood that we did not have the votes to win the Democratic nomination our campaign was suspended, not ended, because people in every state should have the right to express their preference. What the Board of Elections is ignoring is that the primary process not only leads to a nominee but also the selection of delegates which helps determine the platform and rules of the Democratic Party," said Bernie 2020 senior advisor Jeff Weaver. 

"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. Given that the primary is months away, the proper response must be to make the election safe — such as going to all vote by mail — rather than to eliminating people's right to vote completely."

Our Revolution, a 501(c)(4) organization that was created after Sanders' first run for president in 2016, has pushed its grassroots army to persuade voters to back the Vermont senator in states that have yet to hold their primaries. It aims to make sure Sanders wins enough delegates to push for key reforms in the Democratic platform.

After the self-described democratic socialist was removed from the ballot, Our Revolution's leadership told CNBC they plan to reach out to delegates and state party leaders in the remaining primary states to persuade them that if they decide on a similar course, the party will split.

"I would say to state party chairs in other states" not to follow New York, Our Revolution's chairman, Larry Cohen, said in an interview. "You are better off following the Republican governor in Ohio who extended a mail in ballot, than following a Democratic governor in New York, and that's a disgrace, but that's a reality," he added, while placing the blame entirely on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and what he believes is his control of the state party apparatus.

At his daily coronavirus briefing in Albany on Monday, Cuomo distanced himself from the decision. "I'm not going to second-guess the Board of Elections. I'll leave it up to the Board of Elections," Cuomo said. 

New York, with its 274 pledged delegates, gave the senator one of his best chances to rack up some delegates.

New York state originally postponed its primary from April 28 to June 23 due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. More than a dozen other states and U.S. territories have also delayed their nominating contests.  

The outbreak has spread to dozens of countries globally, with more than 2.99 million confirmed cases worldwide and over 207,270 deaths so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There are at least 965,900 cases in the United States and at least 54,877 deaths, according to the latest tallies.