Despite endorsing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) criticized New York's decision to cancel its June presidential primary.
The twice-failed presidential contender called the decision "a blow to American democracy." The cancellation, which state officials say is necessary to stem the spread of the coronavirus, would also be a blow to Sanders's influence on the future of the Democratic Party.
"What the Board of Elections is ignoring is that the primary process not only leads to a nominee but also the selection of delegates which helps determine the platform and rules of the Democratic Party," Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement Monday.
Recent Stories in 2020 Election
Prior to the decision, Sanders had remained on the state's ballot with the goal of packing the Democratic National Convention with as many allies as possible. Convention delegates not only shape the party platform heading into November but also choose the nominee in the event of a brokered convention. The Sanders campaign called for New York to lose all of its 274 pledged delegates if it moves forward.
"If this is not remedied, New York should lose all its delegates to the 2020 Democratic National Convention and there should be a broader review by the Democratic Party of New York's checkered pattern of voter disenfranchisement," Weaver said.
The state's decision to cancel its presidential primary comes nearly a month after Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo announced he was delaying the election from April 28 to June 2 as New York City emerged as the epicenter of the pandemic in America. New York leads all U.S. states in both coronavirus cases and deaths, holding more than 280,000 and 16,000, respectively, according to state health officials. State election board commissioner Andrew Spano, a Democrat, said the primary is "essentially a beauty contest" and the decision to cancel was made "for the protection of everybody," noting that he would not move forward with the primary "just for purposes of issues at a convention." The state's Board of Elections did not respond to a request for comment.
Sanders-aligned groups mirrored the campaign's rebuke of New York. Our Revolution, the progressive advocacy group that spun off from Sanders's 2016 campaign, indicated that it would "challenge any delegates that New York sends to the convention" in a Monday statement.
Sanders endorsed Biden on April 13, five days after suspending his own campaign. Weaver acknowledged that the campaign did not have a path to victory but said that voters who did not cast a presidential primary ballot before the coronavirus pandemic "have the right to express their preference."
"While we understood that we did not have the votes to win the Democratic nomination, our campaign was suspended, not ended, because people in every state should have the right to express their preference," Weaver said. "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."
Though the Sanders campaign did not mention Cuomo by name in its criticism of the decision, Our Revolution chairman Larry Cohen told HuffPost that Cuomo was "trying to be the party boss who goes to the party convention with 284 delegates in his pocket." He added that any support the New York governor gained from his handling of the pandemic was "definitely eroding" due to the primary cancellation.
Cuomo's office did not respond to a request for comment.
The Democratic National Committee also delayed the party's nominating convention from July 13 to August 17 due to coronavirus in April. Both Sanders and presumptive nominee Joe Biden were involved in the decision.
While New York's presidential primary is now canceled, congressional, state, and local elections will still be held in New York on June 23.