Absent some sort of rapid appeal, New York State will go forward with its presidential primary on June 23rd according to a federal district judge. The state’s Democratic Party had voted last week to cancel the primary, supposedly to lessen the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus and because Joe Biden was the only candidate remaining in contention. But attorneys for Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang (who were still on the ballot) argued that canceling the primary would diminish the candidates’ ability to impact the party platform at the convention and that the reasons given for canceling didn’t make any sense. The judge agreed. (Associated Press)
The New York Democratic presidential primary must take place June 23 because canceling it would be unconstitutional and deprive withdrawn presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang of proper representation at the Democratic convention, a judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan ruled after lawyers for Sanders and Yang argued Monday that they otherwise would be harmed irreparably.
The judge said there was enough time before the primary to plan how to carry it out safely. She acknowledged that the reason it was canceled — to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — was an important state interest but said she was unconvinced it justified infringing rights, especially since every voter can use an absentee ballot. She noted that no other state had canceled its primary.
Perhaps the biggest deciding factor here causing the state Democratic Party to shoot themselves in the foot was the fact that they didn’t cancel the congressional and state-level primaries that are scheduled for the same day. How can it be unsafe to vote for the party’s presidential candidate while simultaneously being safe enough to vote for members of Congress and local officials? That never made any sense.
Also, everyone is allowed to vote via an absentee ballot this year. That will slow down the process in terms of knowing the final numbers, but they’ll still be able to record the official results well ahead of the convention. (Assuming there’s still going to be a convention of some sort.) I’d expect to see requests for absentee ballots skyrocketing in and around New York City, while the upstate regions may just go about their business largely as they usually do.
Now that the order has been given we have the chance to engage in a fun thought experiment. Turnout for the New York primaries is generally rather dismal to begin with. It comes relatively late in the season during presidential cycles and the candidate is frequently already decided. This year we have the pandemic to deal with on top of that, so turnout could be near record lows.
We already learned that enthusiasm for Joe Biden as a candidate is almost nonexistent, particularly among younger voters. If it’s assumed that he’s already locked up the nomination, why would Democrats bother to brave the virus or even fill out an absentee ballot to support him? But do you know which group of people are still pretty fired up and upset over the entire situation? The Bernie Bros and Bernie Sisters.
Is it really all that impossible to picture a situation where record-low turnout results in Sanders winning the primary in New York? Keep in mind that the Empire State has a ton of delegates up for grabs. Joe Biden is still more than 500 short of the magic number of pledged delegates he needs for an automatic win on the first ballot at the convention. If Sanders can drain enough delegates from the pool, a brokered convention might be back on the table. And given all of the “issues” that Biden is having between Tara Reade’s accusations and his increasingly common “senior moments,” that could give the DNC the excuse it’s probably already looking for to rid themselves of a damaged and problematic candidate and swap in someone else.
Is that likely? Not really. The math is still heavily on Biden’s side. But if the Reade situation has enough voters feeling shakey, the remaining primary state voters could start splintering. We’ll keep our eye on this race next month just in case there’s still some drama left in this primary.