In a bold move nominally made to further stem the spread of the coronavirus, the New York State Board of Elections decided on Monday to cancel the state's Democratic presidential primary, which was to be held in June.
Several states have postponed their primaries or created strategies to discourage in-person voting by pushing mail-in ballots, but New York is the first to outright cancel its primary. While the plan was under discussion, former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' campaign had come out against it, hoping to stay on the ballot to accumulate more delegates (likely quite a bit in New York) for a more powerful position at the Democratic National Convention later this year. But the state's Board of Elections decided to remove Sanders from the ballot, in effect canceling the primary.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, already the presumptive Democratic nominee after Sanders endorsed him earlier this month, is now the only candidate on the ballot, presumably making him the de facto winner.
According to the New York Times, 20 of New York's 62 counties have no other contests slated for voting on June 23, rendering the date effectively meaningless now for those counties. However, Tompkins County is not one of them, and the date is actually fairly significant in the local political landscape. Democratic primaries are being held for Tompkins County District Attorney, Ithaca City Judge, and the seven-way contest for the Democratic nomination to replace Barbara Lifton as the New York State Assembly's representative of the 125th district.
"The Democratic Primary Election for Tompkins County District Attorney and City of Ithaca City Court Judge will go on as planned on June 23," Democratic Election Commissioner Stephen DeWitt.
That leaves the State Assembly race as the most prominent local election still in question, though it seems likely that election will continue. According to an official quoted in the aforementioned New York Times story, the goal is to have other primary elections still held on that date, although without the opportunity to choose a presidential candidate it is easily surmised that turnout will be significantly lower than it would have been if that was an option. Traditionally, turnout in Tompkins County is much lower in off-year primary elections than it is in years with presidential elections, so the impact of removing a presidential candidate choice could have implications for the other races held that day.
Some candidates, like Ithaca Common Council member Seph Murtagh, have already called for mail-in ballots to be introduced as the premier manner of voting to avoid public contact. Fellow candidate Anna Kelles put together a video on Facebook showing people how to apply for absentee ballots in response to an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo that told boards of elections to mail absentee applications to all registered voters to ease mail-in voting.