If you saw the news yesterday about the New York Board of Elections canceling the Democratic presidential primary on June 23, you’d be forgiven for thinking the state is no longer holding elections on that day. The headlines do say “canceled,” after all. On the contrary: Primary elections are still scheduled for June 23—at least for the time being. It’s only the presidential primary contest that was called off yesterday.
Here’s what’s going on and why it matters:
The headlines say “canceled.” What gives?
The state’s election board did, rather controversially, cancel the presidential primary. According to the board’s Democratic cochair, the contest just wasn’t worth the risk to public health during the coronavirus pandemic, especially considering that former Vice President Joe Biden is already the presumed Democratic nominee. The decision sparked immediate backlash from supporters of Bernie Sanders, and from Sanders’s campaign. The senator from Vermont is still hoping to use his influence to push the party toward more progressive policies. Being on the ballot, and letting people vote, is an important part of that.
Additionally, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also canceled a number of special elections that had been scheduled for June 23 with an executive order last week.
Wait, so what’s left?
State and federal primary elections are still happening in New York on June 23, and they include a number of important congressional races. For instance, representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of Queens and Adriano Espaillat of Manhattan are facing challengers, and Jose Serrano of the Bronx is retiring.
About 20 New York counties had no other primary aside from the presidential contest, as the New York Times points out, and so they now have no need to go to the polls on June 23.
If elections are still on, what’s the big deal?
A few things. Presidential contests generally increase voter turnout, so without one, fewer voters are likely to participate in the upcoming primary, which critics argue will negatively impact down-ballot candidates.
It’s also true that busy voters may see headlines about the presidential primary election being “canceled” and assume it applies to all the primary races. James Felton Keith, a progressive candidate taking on Espaillat in Manhattan’s 13th District, tweeted about the potential for confusion, calling it a form of “voter suppression.”
Ocasio-Cortez also criticized the decision, tweeting that it was “not informed by public health” and calling for an expansion of the state’s vote-by-mail system.
We reached out to the Board of Elections for comment and will update this post if we hear back.
New York cancelled its Presidential primary with two clear goals:
1. Prevent @BernieSanders from winning delegates to the convention.
2. Discourage progressives from voting in down-ballot races.
Below is a list of candidates who still need your support on June 23.
— NY For Sanders #Bernie2020 (@NYforSanders) April 28, 2020
I still want to vote. What can I do?
Governor Cuomo announced earlier this month that all New Yorkers can vote by absentee ballot in the upcoming primary by citing the fear of contracting COVID under the illness exemption. But after first saying that voters could be automatically mailed their absentee ballots, he backtracked when he realized that might face constitutional challenges. If New Yorkers would like to vote by absentee ballot, they can download the absentee application at vote.nyc or call 1-866-VOTE-NYC. The deadline for completing the application is June 16. All the information you need is right here.
As of now, polling sites will still be open on June 23, so New Yorkers who choose to can still vote in person.