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Judge Rules New York's Democratic Presidential Primary Must Go On

People vote in the 2016 presidential election in New York City.
People vote in the 2016 presidential election in New York City.

New York state's Democratic presidential primary is back on after a district court judge granted a preliminary injunction on Tuesday to reinstate the contest.

Last week the New York State Board of Elections canceled the June 23 primary, when officials removed every Democrat from the ballot except the presumptive nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. The board said the contest was unnecessary, especially given public health concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The action didn't apply to congressional and state-level races.

The move elicited criticism from supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who argued that the more pledged delegates Sanders brings to the Democratic National Convention, the more influence he'll have on the party's rules and platform.

Sanders suspended his campaign in April, but had wanted to remain on the ballot in the remaining primaries in order to maximize his delegate count.

The judge's ruling actually comes in response to a lawsuit filed by another former Democratic candidate. Andrew Yang challenged the board's decision by claiming his rights were violated when his name was removed from New York's primary ballot.

U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres ruled all qualifying candidates must be reinstated on the ballot.

Torres wrote that canceling the primary deprived Yang, along with a group of his pledged delegates, of "the opportunity to compete for delegate slots and shape the course of events at the Convention, and voters will lose the chance to express their support for delegates who share their views. The loss of these First Amendment rights is a heavy hardship."

Torres also noted that while other states have rescheduled their primary elections in light of COVID-19, "New York is the only one to have canceled its primary, casting further doubt on Defendants' contention that scrapping the primary is necessary to combat the risk posed by the virus."

Yang celebrated the decision on Twitter, saying he hopes "the New York Board of Elections takes from this ruling a newfound appreciation of their role in safeguarding our democracy."

In a statement, Sanders' campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said he was "glad Judge Torres has restored basic democracy in New York."

New York State Board of Elections Commissioner Andrew Spano and co-chair Douglas Kellner couldn't be reached for comment but Kellner told the New York Times that the board was "reviewing the decision and preparing an appeal."

"The Andrew Yang complaint makes no mention at all of the New York law that provides for removal from the ballot of a presidential candidate who suspends his or her campaign," Kellner said in a statement to NPR in April.

"The court complaint also fails to refer to the resolution actually adopted by the commissioners. We are confident that once the court reviews the statute and the text of our resolution, it will find that Commissioner Spano and I acted appropriately in accordance with the governing provisions of the Election Law."

New York's Republican presidential primary was already called off earlier this year, when no candidates aside from President Trump qualified for the ballot.

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