New York Primary Is Back On

A Democratic primary New York State COVID-19 absentee ballot application. Independent/Desirée Keegan

A three-judge federal appeals panel affirmed an early May ruling reinstating New York’s June Democratic presidential primary.

The election will take place on June 23 as planned, and New York must reinstate qualified presidential and delegate candidates to the Democratic primary ballot.

The appeals panel declared U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres, who sided with Andrew Yang, a former candidate who sued the state in federal court, was correct in her ruling, which called the New York State Board of Elections’ April decision to cancel the contest “authoritarian and illegal.” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign also filed a third-party brief in support of the lawsuit. The state had appealed Torres’ order, which also said “the removal of presidential contenders from the primary ballot not only deprived those candidates of the chance to garner votes for the Democratic party’s nomination . . . it deprived Democratic voters of the opportunity to elect delegates who could push their point of view in that forum.”

Election officials had argued that holding a “largely symbolic” presidential primary — because former Vice President Joe Biden will be the only name on the ballot after all other Democratic candidates had suspended their campaigns — would be costly and put people’s health at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have reviewed all of the remaining arguments raised by defendants on appeal,” the three judges wrote in the May 19 decision, “and find them to be without merit.”

In response to the court’s ruling last Tuesday, Yang tweeted he was “thrilled that democracy has prevailed for the voters of New York!”

Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, also applauded the appeals court’s decision.

“With today’s decision, which affirmed the district court’s recent ruling, we expect New York to work to make voting safe, rather than wasting taxpayer money trying to disenfranchise New York voters,” read a statement. “This ruling is a victory for democracy.”

The New York State Board of Elections co-chair Douglas Kellner said another appeal would not be filed.

“Commissioner [Andrew] Spano and I have decided not to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court so we can focus all of our attention on the daunting task of managing the primary election in a way that minimizes the risks to the public and to election workers,” Kellner said, “while we continue to urge the voters to take advantage of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive orders to permit the widespread use of absentee ballots during the public health emergency.”

Most local registered Democrats have already received letters from the Suffolk County Board of Elections with a New York State COVID-19 absentee ballot application.

“Governor Cuomo has enacted numerous executive orders during the COVID-19 emergency to allow eligible voters to vote by absentee ballot instead of voting in person at a polling place in June,” the letter from Democratic Commissioner Anita Katz and Republican Deputy Commissioner Erin McTiernan read. “These orders give you an opportunity to fill out the enclosed application and receive a ballot via mail.”

This only currently applies to the primary election, and New Yorkers still have the option of going to a polling place if desired. If a ballot needs to be sent somewhere other than a resident’s home, the first section of the absentee ballot application will need to be filled out. The application must be postmarked by June 16 or personally delivered to the Suffolk County Board of Elections no later than the day before the election. The ballot itself must either be personally delivered to the board of elections no later than the close of polls on election day, or postmarked by a governmental postal service no later than the day before the election and received no later than the seventh day after the election.

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