EDITORIAL: State right to cancel Democratic presidential primary

No reason to expose voters, poll workers to covid exposure when outcome of race is already determined
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Categories: Editorial, Opinion

The reason political parties hold primary elections is to determine the candidate who will represent them in the general election.

It’s not to provide the losing candidate with additional clout to get his positions put into the winning candidate’s platform. And it’s not to provide a forum for candidates’ backers to express their views or support for their guy.

A primary is nothing more and nothing less than an election — with a winner and a loser.

And if the party’ s nominee has already been determined, if there’s already a winner, then there’s no reason to hold the primary.

So despite the predictable whining of Bernie Sanders and his supporters, it’s perfectly reasonable — particularly in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic — for New York to call off its Democratic Party presidential primary.

With only a few primaries left in the process, former Vice President Joe Biden has an all-but-insurmountable lead. As proof, Sanders, realizing he no longer had a path to the nomination, suspended his campaign and formally endorsed Biden earlier this month.

Barring some kind of catastrophic event due to a death or disqualification, Biden will be the party’s nominee against President Trump.

Sanders’ supporters say they needed the state’s delegates to boost Sanders’ influence over the party platform at the nominating convention. But what they forget is that Biden also would have won delegates in the primary, likely far more than Sanders, since Sanders effectively quit the race and backed Biden.

The canceling of the presidential primary will have positive effects, particularly in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. With no other races on the June 23 primary ballot, 30 of the state’s 62 counties will have no election that day, meaning many fewer voters and poll workers will be exposed to the virus. The move also will save taxpayers a lot of money. 

For those worrying that this decision gives Trump precedent for canceling or delaying the general election in November, it doesn’t.

Only Congress, not the president, has the constitutional authority to suspend or delay the general election. And the current political makeup of Congress won’t let that happen.

Primaries are a state function, and cancelling primaries for lack of opposition isn’t illegal or unusual. In fact, many states cancelled their Republican primary this year after it became clear Trump would win the nomination.

Further, the reason for suspending New York’s primary, that the outcome has been determined, doesn’t apply to the general election.

Finally, by November, the virus may have subsided enough to safely hold the general election in person. But just in case, many states have already adopted non-contact voting through mail-in balloting and no-excuse absentee voting. Other states, including New York, are preparing to do the same.

Simply put, the primary was no longer needed to determine the Democratic nominee, and not holding it will save many New Yorkers from potential exposure to the coronavirus.

Canceling it was the right thing to do.
 

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