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Federal appeals court orders New York's presidential primary to proceed

ALBANY – A move by Democrats appointed to the state Elections Board to cancel the party’s June 23 presidential primary in New York was rejected – again – by a federal court.

On Tuesday, a three-judge federal panel sided with a lower court ruling two weeks ago that ruled in favor of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and businessman Andrew Yang in their bid to force New York to hold the primary even though they have suspended their presidential campaigns.

The case was brought against the state Election Board commissioners – appointed by Democrats – and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. They were defended in court by state Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat.

“We have reviewed all of the remaining arguments raised by defendants on appeal and find them to be without merit," the three judges on the 2nd Circuit appeals court wrote Tuesday morning. A more complete written decision will be issued in the near future, the judges said.

The plaintiffs in the case have said, in part, that they want the primary to proceed in New York to ensure they have a voice in the Democratic Party’s platform deliberations later this summer when Democrat Joseph Biden is expected to be formally nominated to run as the party’s opponent to President Trump.

The state has maintained that the primary is not needed because Biden is, ostensibly, running without any opponents in New York and that Covid-19 public health concerns necessitate the canceling of the June 23 primary. An earlier April primary date was moved because of pandemic concerns.

But in one court filing this month, Yang and his supporters noted that other primary contests – for congressional and state legislative seats – are still set to take place on June 23. Only the presidential primary was canceled by the Democratic board members of the elections agency, a move the plaintiffs said amounted to an “authoritarian and illegal action that creates a horrible precedent for our democracy.’’

Rather than permit expanding voting-by-mail options for the presidential primary, as the state is doing with the other June contests, the elections board voted to “discriminatorily and arbitrarily and unconstitutionally” to remove 10 out of 11 candidates and their delegates, Yang and his supporters argued this month.

U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres earlier this month ruled against the state Elections Board. New York would have been the only state to cancel its Democratic presidential primary.

Douglas A. Kellner, co-chair of the state elections board, who made the decision to cancel the primary along with fellow commissioner, Andrew Spano, who was appointed to the board by Cuomo, said Tuesday that the elections agency will not appeal the new court ruling "so we can focus all of our attention on the daunting tasks of managing the primary in a way that minimizes risks to the public and to election workers, while we continue to urge voters to take advantage of Governor Cuomo's executive orders to permit the widespread use of absentee ballots during the public health emergency."

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