MANHATTAN (CN) — Accusing New York election officials of favoring presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang filed an emergency class action Tuesday challenging the state’s decision to cancel its June presidential primary election.
“Neither Yang nor the other plaintiffs, after working tirelessly to secure their names on the ballot, asked the defendant to remove their names from the ballot,” according to the complaint filed by the candidate who dropped out of the race in February and by his would-be New York delegates.
Represented by attorney Jeffrey M. Kurzon of the New York City firm Kurzon Kohen, Yang and his co-plaintiffs alleges that the New York Board of Elections violated the First and 14th Amendments to the Constitution when it decided Monday to cancel New York’s already delayed 2020 Democratic presidential primary that was set for June 23.
Citing concern about spreading Covid-19 in the state where the disease has hit hardest, the decision by the Board of Elections employs a provision of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s state budget law to remove all candidates from the ballot except Biden.
The provision allows New York’s election officials to remove from the ballot any candidate who has announced they have stopped running and is thus “no longer eligible” to win the nomination.
“By operation of law, NY does not hold uncontested primaries,” a representative for the Board of Elections had said in an email Monday to Courthouse News. “So their action de facto eliminates the Democratic presidential primary and Joe Biden is effectively the winner of the N.Y. primary.”
Douglas A. Kellner, co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, remarked Tuesday evening that Yang’s suit makes no mention at all of the New York law that provides for removal from the ballot of a presidential candidate who suspends his or her campaign.
“We are confident that once the court reviews the statute and our resolution, it will find that Commissioner Spano and I acted appropriately in accordance with the governing provisions of the Election Law,” Kellner in an email.
Yang says that New York’s decision to cancel the presidential primary deprives his 274 pledged delegates of the opportunity to represent him at the 2020 Democratic National Convention in August.
Yang claims New York’s decision to shut down the presidential primary election denies voters due process and their right to vote, as well as depriving his 274 pledged delegates of the opportunity to represent him at the 2020 Democratic National Convention in August.
“It is clear defendant’s action to cancel the presidential primary is an ill-conceived political decision, rather than a rational decision to protect voter and worker health and safety (especially given that everyone can vote by mail due to Covid-19),” the complaint states (parentheses in original).
The party platform will be decided at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, which was postponed from July to August due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision also threatens to suppress voter turnout in the local elections where many party-establishment candidates would be favored by low voter turnout, Yang claims.
Months before millions of Americans received stimulus checks from the Trump administration due to economic hardships of the Covid-19 pandemic, Yang built his campaign around the idea of universal basic income of $1,000 per month for every American adult to offset economic inequality.
He was surprisingly durable in the early crowded field of candidates, outlasting the likes of Senators Corey Booker and Kamala Harris before dropping out Feb. 11.
The suit’s co-plaintiffs include Jonathan Herzog, a 2020 Democratic candidate for New York’s 10th Congressional District, who shares Yang’s policy platform including universal basic income and universal health care for all Americans.
On Monday, Bernie Sanders’ campaign released a statement similarly urging the Democratic National Convention to overturn the order. Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to the Sanders campaign, called the decision Monday “an outrage [and] a blow to American democracy.”
“No one asked New York to cancel the election. The DNC didn’t request it. The Biden campaign didn’t request it. And our campaign communicated that we wanted to remain on the ballot,” Weaver said in a statement Monday. “Given that the primary is months away, the proper response must be to make the election safe — such as going to all vote by mail — rather than to eliminating people’s right to vote completely.”