New York nixes Democratic presidential primary due to virus

Alex Poam, left, sells gloves to a customer on a street corner in Manhattan, New York, Sunday, April 26, 2020. Poam is studying to be a computer and network technician; after taking online classes most mornings he sells PPE to pedestrians to support himself. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Alex Poam, left, sells gloves to a customer on a street corner in Manhattan, New York, Sunday, April 26, 2020. Poam is studying to be a computer and network technician; after taking online classes most mornings he sells PPE to pedestrians to support himself. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

In an unprecedented move, New York has canceled its Democratic presidential primary that was scheduled for June 23 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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.

Commissioner Andrew Spano said he had pondered at length, reaching a decision just Monday morning. He said he worried about potentially forcing voters and poll workers to choose between their democratic duty and their health. While there will still be other offices on the ballot, Spano reasoned it made sense to give voters an opportunity to choose in contested races but not to “have anyone on the ballot just for the purposes of issues at a convention.”

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 Gov. 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.