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New York state has canceled its presidential primary over the coronavirus.
The New York State Board of Elections voted on Monday to scrap the June 23 contest after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) dropped out of the Democratic primary but asked to remain on the ballot, according to The New York Times. Former Vice President Joe Biden now has a clear path to the nomination.
Sanders’s campaign and supporters attempted to pressure Democratic members of the Board of Elections to keep the primary in place ahead of the Monday vote. Sanders has said that, though he has suspended his campaign, he wants to continue to amass delegates to give him more leverage over the Democratic Party platform at the convention.
“Suppressing the Sanders vote in New York will again lead to attacks on the Party across the nation and harm the volunteer effort that our group and others are building for Joe Biden,” Larry Cohen, who chairs the pro-Sanders group Our Revolution, told board members before the vote.
The board dismissed the Sanders supporters requests and warnings, citing the dangers of the coronavirus and said that the risk of the pathogen outweighed holding a primary election that has already been decided. The board has not canceled any state or local primary elections, however.
“What the Sanders campaign wanted is essentially a beauty contest that, given the situation with the public health emergency, seems to be unnecessary and, indeed, frivolous,” said Douglas A. Kellner, Democratic co-chairman of the Board of Elections.
Kellner said the board’s decision, agreed to unanimously, was legal under a New York law adopted on April 3 that says primary opponents that drop out of a race must have their names removed from the ballot.
“Obviously the intent of the legislature was not to have a primary election where there is no real contest,” Kellner said.
Progressives running in primary races across the state voiced concerns over the board’s decision. Candidates worry that without Sanders’s name on the ballot, the young vote that down ballot progressives were counting on to carry them through will not materialize, imperiling their chances at election.
“I’m worried that this could depress turnout among younger voters in my primary challenge,” Jamaal Bowman, who is challenging Democratic Rep Eliot Engel, said in a statement. “This is terrible for our democracy and our party. My heart goes out to all the organizers who were part of the Bernie campaign and movement.”
Sanders suspended his campaign for president on April 8, leaving Biden the lone candidate in the primary and making him the presumptive Democratic nominee. The Biden campaign is now focusing on bringing the disparate elements of the Democratic Party behind the former vice president as he focuses on beating President Trump in the general election.
Biden and the Democratic National Committee’s plans to launch a coordinated effort against the sitting president have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Biden, 77, has been effectively quarantined in his house in Delaware since the outbreak of the coronavirus, significantly limiting his ability to campaign and court donors.
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