ALBANY — Democratic officials on Monday canceled New York’s presidential primary, citing coronavirus concerns and the suspension of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign.
The action formally gives the state’s Democratic nomination to former Vice President Joe Biden.
Other elections slated for June 23 — congressional and state legislative primaries, for example — will remain as scheduled.
Sanders’ supporters opposed the cancellation of the primary because they still wanted the opportunity to elect delegates to the Democratic National Convention and perhaps influence the party’s platform. Democratic election commissioners said canceling was both the safe and pragmatic decision.
“Joe Biden is the only candidate and, therefore, he is effectively the winner of the New York primary,” Democratic election commissioner Doug Kellner said during a board meeting. He said the suspension of Sanders’ campaign “has effectively ended the real contest for the primary election.”
“What the Sanders supporters want is essentially a beauty contest that, given the situation with respect to the public health emergency that exists now, seems to be unnecessary and, indeed, frivolous," Kellner added.
The other Democrat on the state Board of Elections agreed.
“I’ve come to the conclusion we should minimize the ballot,” Andrew Spano said. He said the June 23 ballot should feature contests that are “real races” and “not just have someone on the ballot just for reasons that are conventional.”
Sanders campaign adviser Jeff Weaver blasted the New York commissioners and said he'd ask the Democratic National Committee to step in — and take away New York's delegates if the primary isn't reinstated.
"Today’s decision by the State of New York Board of Elections is an outrage, a blow to American democracy, and must be overturned by the DNC," Weaver said in a statement. "No one asked New York to cancel the election. The DNC didn’t request it. The Biden campaign didn’t request it."
Republican commissioners made a similar decision earlier this year before the coronavirus became a pandemic, giving President Donald Trump the party’s nomination because the race effectively wasn’t contested.
New York's presidential primaries originally were scheduled for April, but were pushed back because of the pandemic. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had slated a handful of special elections to fill vacancies in the State Legislature for April, but those had been moved to June and, recently, rescheduled for November. On Long Island, the rescheduling affected the race between Republican Keith Brown and Democrat Michael Marcantonio to fill an Assembly vacancy in Suffolk County.