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Judge rules New York must hold presidential primary June 23

Update: On Wednesday night, The New York Board of Elections announced it will appeal the court decision. The article has been updated to reflect that change. 

A federal judge restored the New York Democratic presidential primary, ruling Tuesday that its cancellation by the New York State Board of Elections last month was unconstitutional. 

The order from U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres returns all qualifying presidential candidates — including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders — to the primary ballot and mandates that the election must take place June 23, as previously scheduled. 

Last month, New York state — the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic — took the unprecedented step of canceling its presidential primary, citing coronavirus concerns. Tuesday's opinion followed a legal challenge filed by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and a group of delegates aiming to reverse the cancellation. Lawyers for Sanders and Yang presented arguments in Manhattan Monday. 

"If all but one of the presidential candidates are removed from the ballot and the primary is not held, Delegate Plaintiffs will be deprived of the opportunity to compete for delegate slots and shape the course of events at the Convention, and voters will lose the chance to express their support for delegates who share their views," Judge Torres wrote in her ruling, adding, "The loss of these First Amendment rights is a heavy hardship."

The federal judge also determined that New York "has sufficient time to take necessary steps to protect voters," with seven weeks to go until primary day.

On Wednesday night, the New York Board of Elections announced it will appeal the court decision.

The New York Board of Elections originally voted to remove candidates who have suspended their campaigns from the primary ballot under an obscure provision entered into the state budget signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in April. That decision said Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, would receive all the 274 pledged delegates. That is no longer the case. 

The Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic National Committee  is meeting on May 12 to discuss what to do with delegates of states who have moved their primaries past the designated window in the party's rules. According to the rules, states must hold primaries by June 9, and all delegates must be elected by June 20. While states may request a waiver, it must be ultimately approved by the Rules and Bylaws Committee. 

The lawsuit filed by Yang alleged New York's presidential primary cancellation would result in "disenfranchising hundreds of persons" and "suppressing voter turnout" to the detriment of down ballot candidates.

"I'm glad that a federal judge agreed that depriving millions of New Yorkers of the right to vote was wrong," Yang said in a statement, in response to Tuesday's ruling. "I hope that the New York Board of Elections takes from this ruling a newfound appreciation of their role in safeguarding our democracy."

Sanders' campaign manager Faiz Shakir also weighed in, thanking Torres for restoring "basic democracy" in the state of New York. "People in every state should have the right to express their preference in the 2020 Democratic primary," Shakir said in a statement. "We have confidence that New York can hold elections in June in a safe manner that preserves New Yorkers' right to vote."

New York's statewide stay-at-home order is currently set to expire on May 15. Cuomo told reporters Monday that regions of the state may begin to reopen on a "region-by-region basis."

Cara Korte contributed to this report.

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