COVID-19 Special Coverage
Federal appeals court affirms decision to reinstate New York presidential primary
andibreit / Pixabay
Federal appeals court affirms decision to reinstate New York presidential primary

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed on Tuesday the Southern District of New York’s decision to reinstate the New York presidential primary on June 23, 2020. The court ruled that the cancellation of the presidential primary violated the plaintiffs’ right of association under the First and Fourteenth Amendment.

Andrew Yang, a presidential candidate who suspended his campaign, and seven of Yang’s pledged delegates sued the New York Board of Elections (BOE) for infringing on their constitutional rights. Yang hoped to collect delegates to send to the Democratic National Convention in August. Under New York law, a presidential candidate may send delegates to the Convention if they garner 15 percent of the vote in a congressional district or 15 percent of the vote statewide. One of the purposes of the Convention is to “determine the party’s principles and goals through the adoption of a platform.” Delegates are able to “vote on platform issues.”

The BOE invoked their authority under a New York election law to remove presidential candidates from the ballot if the candidate has suspended their campaign. The BOE invoked this authority and since Joe Biden was the only candidate left on the ballot, the BOE cancelled the presidential primary stating there was “no longer a need.” In addition, the BOE claimed that the reason for the cancellation was to prevent the spread of COVID-19. All state and local level primaries were still on, however, allowing citizens to vote by mail-in ballot.

The court held that the cancellation infringed on the right to vote and the right to associate with others for political ends. The court also held that allowing voters to mail-in their vote for the presidential primary, similar to the state and local level primaries, would significantly limit the spread of COVID-19.

After the court made its ruling, Yang commented, “thrilled that democracy has prevailed for the voters of New York!”