NEW YORK — An appeals court should let a June 23 primary election in New York state proceed without voters and poll workers being forced to risk exposure to the coronavirus to vote for a Democratic candidate for president when the race is essentially over, lawyers for the state said Friday.
The written arguments were filed by Attorney General Letitia James and Senior Assistant Solicitor Judith N. Vale after a judge ordered the state to include the presidential race on the ballot even though former Vice President Joe Biden is essentially running unopposed.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan has scheduled oral arguments for next Friday.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres said it was unconstitutional to eliminate the Democratic presidential primary after delegates for withdrawn candidates Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang complained that doing so weakens their standing at the Democratic Convention.
She noted that a primary for contested races across New York state was occurring June 23 anyway and said the state had enough time to figure out how to safely carry out the election.
But James and Vale said in their papers filed late Friday that more than 4,600 additional election workers will have to work the presidential primary in a state where three elections employees have already died from the coronavirus.
They said many election workers also have health issues that make them vulnerable to the sometimes deadly illness.
They said county election boards are already severely understaffed because of workers with COVID-19 related issues and the boards also face significant challenges in creating sufficiently safe polling sites and in hiring, retaining, and protecting poll workers.
They said eliminating the presidential primary was not unconstitutional because the state legislature switched rules several weeks ago to allow the change.
They also noted that Sanders and Biden were negotiating the issue of delegates, and they said Sanders or Yang could have remained in the race if they wanted to be in the primary.
In the papers, the lawyers said 18 of New York’s 62 counties contain subdivisions, such as cities, towns, or election districts where no election will be necessary without the Democratic presidential primary. And seven counties would require no election at all.
Messages seeking comment were left with lawyers for delegates for Sanders and Yang.