The presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders isn’t over quite just yet. On Tuesday, a federal court judge ruled that New York must go through with its state-wide presidential primary on June 23, giving voters one last chance to register their support for the Vermont senator.
While those votes will be largely symbolic—Sanders suspended his campaign on April 8th and endorsed the party’s presumptive nominee, former vice president Joe Biden, on April 13—the Sanders campaign is clearly hoping that any substantial support they get in this race and the other remaining primaries will give it more clout when it comes to the Democratic convention in August and the drafting of the party’s platform for the fall campaign against Donald Trump.
On April 27th, two weeks after Sanders became the last remaining challenger to Biden to drop out of the race, the New York State Board of Elections decided to cancel the primary (which already had been moved from its original date in late April) out of concerns posed by COVID-19, explaining it was now “essentially a beauty contest” not worth the health hazard a statewide vote might pose.
But a federal judge officially overturned that cancellation on Tuesday, ruling that it would infringe on candidates, delegates, and voters’ rights. “Protecting the public from the spread of COVID-19 is an important state interest,” U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres wrote in her ruling. “But the Court is not convinced that canceling the presidential primary would meaningfully advance that interest—at least not to the degree as would justify the burdensome impingement on Plaintiffs’ and Plaintiff-Intervenors’ rights.”
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed in April by one-time candidate Andrew Yang (and one whose name still remains on the New York ballot). The lawsuit argued it was unconstitutional for New York to cancel the vote, as opposed to moving its primary to a later date, which other states had done in response to the coronavirus. “Losing delegates, and losing the right to vote, is quite simply an outrage that is illegal and will cause irreparable harm to Plaintiff and New York voters,” the lawsuit argued. “It will cause candidates like Yang and the Plaintiff delegates to lose influence at the party’s convention, and the possibility, even if remote, of winning the nomination to be the candidate for President.”
Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said in a statement on Tuesday: “We’re glad Judge Torres has restored basic democracy in New York. People in every state should have the right to express their preference in the 2020 Democratic primary. We have confidence that New York can hold elections in June in a safe manner that preserves New Yorkers’ right to vote.”
On Twitter, Yang praised the ruling and said he was “glad that a federal judge agreed that depriving millions of New Yorkers of the right to vote was wrong.”
Candidates who receive at least 15% of the vote in a congressional district and 15% of the vote statewide can send delegates to the convention, under the New York Democratic Party’s selection rules.