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New York cancels its Democratic presidential primary due to Covid-19

A woman walks through an almost-deserted Times Square in the early morning hours on April 23, 2020, in New York City, USA.
A woman walks through an almost-deserted Times Square in the early morning hours on April 23, 2020, in New York City, USA. © Johannes Eisele, AFP

In an unprecedented move, New York has cancelled its Democratic presidential primary originally scheduled for June 23 amid the coronavirus epidemic.

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The Democratic members of the State’s Board of Elections voted Monday to nix the primary. New York will still hold its congressional and state-level primaries on June 23.

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.

“It just makes so much sense given the extraordinary nature of the challenge,” Jacobs said last week.

Local election officials and voting groups have called on the state to use federal funds to purchase cleaning supplies and protective gear, and boost staff ahead of 2020 elections.

Both the state’s Democratic Party and Governor Andrew Cuomo have said they didn’t ask election commissioners to make the change, which is allowed thanks to a little-known provision in the recently passed state budget that allows the New York board of elections to remove names of any candidates who have suspended or terminated their campaign from the ballot.

The decision to cancel a Democratic primary is left up to Democratic state election commissioners.

Former Democratic presidential candidate and US Senator Bernie Sanders announced earlier this month that he had suspended his campaign. In a letter Sunday, a lawyer for the Sanders campaign asked the commissioners not to cancel the primary.

“Senator Sanders has collaborated with state parties, the national party and the Biden campaign, to strengthen the Democrats by aligning the party’s progressive and moderate wings. His removal from the ballot would hamper those efforts, to the detriment of the party in the general election,” a lawyer for his campaign, Malcolm Seymour, wrote in a letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

New York voters can now choose to vote with an absentee ballot in the June primaries under a Cuomo executive order that adds the risk of acquiring Covid-19 as a reason to vote absentee. Cuomo also recently announced the state is sending mail-in ballots to voters.

Jacobs has said it’s a significant change, but that the party’s ready.

“It’s a big process for us. We don’t have many weeks to get it into place before the primary,” Jacobs said. “It’s going to be difficult to execute but we’re going to do it.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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