NEW YORK — New York’s Democratic Party leadership gave up its attempt to cancel the state’s June 23 presidential primary Tuesday after an appeals court rejected arguments that holding it during the coronavirus pandemic would endanger public safety.
Douglas A. Kellner, co-chair of the State Board of Elections, said he and the board's commissioner had decided not to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court the decision by a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.
He said they planned to urge voters to use absentee ballots while they “focus all of our attention on the daunting tasks of managing the primary election in a way that minimizes the risks to the public and to election workers."
State Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs said he was disappointed in the ruling.
“Of course I’m disappointed and hopeful that none of the worst predictions for poll worker health will come true, but we will comply of course with the court’s order and we will hold the primary," Jacobs said.
The decision was praised by lawyers for supporters of Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang, two Democratic presidential candidates who had suspended their campaigns but wanted primaries to secure them enough delegates to influence the party's platform and rules later this summer.
The appeals court agreed with a lower court judge who ruled two weeks ago that the primary must include the contest over the state’s objections.
Three appeals judges heard arguments in Manhattan Friday, when they seemed to agree with lawyers for supporters of Sanders and Yang.
The lawyers said it did not matter that former Vice President Joe Biden seemed destined to be the Democrat's nominee against President Donald Trump because they wanted a strong voice at the Democrat's August convention.
The 2nd Circuit judges issued an order Tuesday morning to say they were upholding the lower court's ruling. They said a written opinion would follow.
“This is a big victory for Democracy, and the importance of not undermining it during the pandemic. We hope President Trump is watching closely: don’t fool with the November election," said attorney Arthur Schwartz, who had argued on behalf of supporters of Sanders.
Attorney Jeff Kurzon, who started the litigation when he sued on behalf of Yang and other prospective convention delegates, said he was “very grateful we have three branches of government and the courts agreed that New Yorkers have the right to vote in this presidential election."
Elections were already scheduled for June 23 for numerous other races, including for state and Congressional offices.
The Democratic presidential primary had been canceled on the grounds that the coronavirus posed too big a safety threat, especially since thousands of poll workers would have to be hired and hundreds of thousands of voters might have trouble social distancing.
But U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres on May 5 ruled there was enough time before the election to ensure measures were in place to carry it out safely.
Lawyers for the state also conceded last week that no other state canceled its Democratic presidential primary.