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Andrew Yang Is Suing Over New York’s Decision to Cancel the Presidential Primary


Andrew Yang speaks to media outside.

In the midst of a pandemic, the issue of voting has become a complicated one. Wisconsin’s primary was a complete disaster, with a shortage of polling places, hours-long lines, and limited access to voting by mail. More than 50 new cases of COVID-19 appear to be linked to the primary.

There was a lot that went wrong in Wisconsin. But New York’s decision to cancel its presidential primary altogether isn’t a better alternative.

The state’s Board of Elections announced the cancellation earlier this week, sparking backlash from Bernie Sanders’ supporters who were hoping to keep amassing delegates for the former candidate (which come in handy for wielding influence at the Democratic convention) and just about everyone else who didn’t like the idea of losing the right to vote.

One of those people is another former candidate, Andrew Yang, who is now suing the New York Board of Elections over the decision.

“This unprecedented and unwarranted move infringes the rights of Plaintiffs and all New York State Democratic Party voters, of which there are estimated to be more than six million, as it fundamentally denies them the right to choose our next candidate for the office of President of the United States,” reads the lawsuit.

What makes New York’s decision even more complicated is that while they canceled the presidential primary, statewide and local primaries are still slated to take place. Douglas Kellner, one of the Democratic commissioners on the board, said this is because the presidential primary outcome is basically already decided in Joe Biden’s favor, which has “basically rendered the primary moot.” That makes sense, although he went on to call the election a “beauty contest” which is both subtly sexist and a bit harsh to Sanders’ supporters who, again, have been encouraged by Sanders himself to keep racking up delegates.

But another part of the board’s argument puts the whole decision in a bad light. According to the Associated Press, “New York Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs has said that the cancellation of the state’s presidential primary would mean a lower expected turnout and a reduced need for polling places.”

If we’re giving him every benefit of the doubt here, what Jacobs could have meant is that not every city and county in New York has other races on their ballots so that will lead to lower voter turnout. But the reality is that a lot of people don’t care about down-ballot voting and only show up for the big races. So yes, if you cancel the presidential primary, far fewer people will turn up for the other issues. And that should absolutely not be the goal of the Democratic Party. Low voter turnout should not be what we’re striving for, at least not when there are other totally reasonable options, which there are.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (who does not have control over the decision to cancel the election) has issued an executive order, demanding every voter in the state be sent a postage-paid application for an absentee ballot “because no New Yorker should have to choose between their health and their right to vote.”

That’s true! Unfortunately, they’re not being given the voting option. It sounds like Biden’s name might appear on the ballot, but all other candidates who have suspended their campaigns will be removed.

“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,” Yang’s lawsuit states. We’ll keep our eyes on this one to see how it plays out.

(image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.