The decision on Monday by the New York State Board of Elections to cancel New York’s Democratic presidential primary was unprecedented, but one Democratic State Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs said was necessary.
“Most of our poll workers in the state of New York are senior citizens and they are certainly among the most vulnerable to the worst effects this virus,” Jacobs said. “It's clear that Joe Biden will be the nominee. The last remaining candidate, Bernie Sanders, not only suspended his campaign but endorsed Joe Biden. There really was no need to put people's lives at risk over the issue of selecting delegates to a convention that's been predetermined.”
But the decision has angered the campaign of Senator Sanders, who has suspended his bid for the presidency, but remained on the ballot in an attempt to use his delegates to influence the party's platform.
“The platform is not an important enough document for the influencing of which you would accept the risking of people's lives over,” Jacobs said. “I challenge anyone to tell me they remember what was in any platform in any year by any party anywhere. And they can’t.”
Sanders’s allies say New York should be penalized for the move.
"New York should lose all its delegates to the 2020 Democratic National Convention and there should be a broader review by the Democratic Party of New York's checkered pattern of voter disenfranchisement,“ wrote Bernie 2020 Senior Advisor Jeff Weaver.
There are still congressional, state and local primaries set for June 23 that are at this time, set to continue.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo also issued an emergency declaration that will allow any New Yorker to vote absentee. But Jacobs said that by cancelling the presidential primary, this will assure less people actually turn out to the polls.
“Historically, there is a much lower turnout number one. And then number two, in about a third of our counties, you have no contest whatsoever,” Jacobs said. “So at least in a third of the counties, we won't have to have any election on that day."
Jennifer Wilson, the legislative director of the New York League of Women Voters, said that although the cancellation of the presidential primary was expected, she hopes this will not discourage people from still voting.
“This is a major election year, presidential election aside, in New York state. All our state offices are up for re-election, all of our Congress seats are up for re-election and we have some local seats that are going to be on the primary ballot as well,” Wilson said.
According to Jacobs, the state's Democratic Committee might be working with the Sanders campaign to give them a few of the state's 274 pledged delegates. But those are details still being worked out.
“We're going to work in good faith to see to it that everybody at the end of the day is satisfied as best as we possibly can,” Jacobs said. “But to say this is unprecedented is an understatement and something at least that has never happened before in New York.”
Two special elections, a state Senate seat in central New York and an Assembly seat in Rochester, have already been postponed until November, leaving those two seats empty until then.