The Democratic members of the New York Board of Elections removed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) from the primary election ballot Monday, effectively canceling the state’s the June 23 presidential primary. Congressional and local primaries will still be held, but the presidential primary cancellation means approximately 20 counties won’t have to administer any contest at all.
The cancellation is a blow to Sanders, whose campaign argued the election should go forward. Although Sanders suspended his campaign, he committed to staying on the ballot in upcoming contests so as to amass enough delegates to influence the platform that the party will decide on at the already delayed Democratic National Convention.
In a statement Sanders said, “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.” He went on to say, “Just last week Vice President Biden warned the American people that President Trump could use the current crisis as an excuse to postpone the November election. Well, now he has a precedent thanks to New York State.”
As it stands now Joe Biden has 1,305 delegates to Sanders’ 939, with 1,991 needed to secure the nomination. However, Democratic Party rules may strip Sanders of about a third of his current delegates, statewide delegates in particular, because of his suspended campaign. These numbers matter because should Sanders come in at under 25 percent of the total delegates, his campaign will not receive seats on a host of convention committees.
The de facto cancellation of the New York State primary was achieved by removing all candidates other than Biden from the ballot, ensuring that the former vice president will rack up all of the 274 pledged delegates chosen by primary voters. Democratic board members who made this decision hope that an uncontested ticket for Biden will dampen voter turnout.
Dampening public turnout on purpose is in itself a strange thing, after all, why wouldn’t the party and the people for that matter want as much input as possible in determining the down ballot races. It could also be a blow to progressives looking to challenge establishment Democrats since Sanders, their biggest star will be on the sidelines. Such a case is NY-16, where Jamaal Bowmann is challenging incumbent Eliot Engel.
— Jamaal Bowman (@JamaalBowmanNY) April 27, 2020
This comes a tricky time in the Democratic primary process when Biden, the presumptive nominee, is attempting to court Sanders voters for the general election. Hillary Clinton was frustrated in her attempt to woo those voters in 2016, in large part because many progressives felt Sanders had been cheated by the process. Erasing his name from the ballot in a state as large as New York may provide fuel for a similar fire this time around.
Biden also finds himself in the midst of an emerging Me Too scandal as former aide Tara Reade’s allegation of sexual assault from the 1990s gets increasing corroboration. It was reported Monday that a neighbor of Reade’s remembers a conversation about the alleged assault she had with Reade in the mid-1990s.
If the scandal should reach the point where Biden is no longer able to run, the entire primary process will be thrown into chaos. Sanders with the second most delegates will have a strong argument to make for being the nominee. But there are already whispers that the Democratic establishment would prefer someone else, maybe even coronavirus superstar New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said he had no influence on the decision to cancel the primary.
What has already been a bizarre election season just got a little stranger with the decision in New York. And once again, as so often seems to be the case, the decision by Democratic leaders, in this case the board members, hurts Bernie Sanders. How will his supporters react to the snub? It history is any indication it may not be pretty.