Decision 2020

Judge Weighs Constitutionality of NY Primary Shutdown

In this April 7, 2020, file photo, I voted stickers sit on a table during a presidential primary election at the Journey Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images

Lawyers for supporters of withdrawn presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang on Monday urged a judge to overrule New York state’s decision to cancel its 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

The lawyers for would-be delegates including Yang argued that the state acted unconstitutionally when it made the cancellation on April 27.

The Democratic members of the State’s Board of Elections voted to cancel the presidential primary even though New York still plans to hold its congressional and state-level primaries June 23.

Attorney Jeffrey Kurzon, representing Yang and others, said the case was about protecting the rights of citizens to vote.

Kurzon said those who brought the lawsuits “must be protected for our democracy to survive" and asked that U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres declare the decision to cancel the democratic presidential primary unconstitutional.

“If the pandemic were their true motivations, then they would simply postpone the June 23 election entirely and not simply the presidential election," he said. “This is a huge slippery slope. It creates a terrible and dangerous precedent."

Torres heard 90 minutes of arguments on a conference call in the Manhattan federal court case before saying she’ll issue her ruling in “due course."

The Democrats’ summer convention is scheduled for the week of Aug. 17 in Milwaukee.

Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, dropped out of the race earlier this year, making Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Matthew Conrad, an assistant attorney general in New York state, defended the decision to cancel the presidential primary as a “common sense step" taken after Sanders had dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden.

He said forcing the election to occur risked the kind of injury that resulted when Wisconsin staged its primary and reports emerged that some voters later were diagnosed with COVID-19.

“If you grant this injunction, the state will be required to deploy thousands of election workers. They’ll be interacting with enormous numbers of the public in the midst of what is still an unprecedented public health crisis in the nationwide epicenter of that crisis," he said.

“They are very simply demanding that the lives of New Yorkers be put at risk for the sake of an uncontested election," Conrad said.

The judge asked why the state should not delay the election all together.

“I don't think that helps at all," Conrad said.

“But if we have these very dangerous circumstances that you're describing, should there be an election at all?" the judge asked.

Conrad argued that it was appropriate to have elections in contested races.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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