By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – New York state will no longer hold its June 23 Democratic presidential primary amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, Democratic officials announced Monday.
The primary had previously been delayed from April 28 over the virus, and the Democratic members of the board voted to cancel the poll altogether, according to multiple reports.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is already the presumptive Democratic nominee after Independent Senator Bernie Sanders exited the race earlier this month and lent his endorsement to the centrist Democrat.
Douglas Kellner, a Democratic co-chair of the board, told CNN that Sanders' decision "basically rendered the primary moot."
"At a time when the goal is to avoid unnecessary social contact, our conclusion was that there was no purpose in holding a beauty contest primary that would marginally increase the risk to both voters and poll workers," said Kellner.
But Sanders had sought to remain on the ballot, in part to show his standing among progressive voters heading into November's nationwide election.
Sanders campaign senior advisor Jeff Weaver slammed the decision in a statement, calling the board's decision "a blow to American democracy" that the Democratic National Committee must overturn.
Instead of cancelling the state presidential primary, Weaver said it should be held through all mail-in voting in order to mitigate the risk of spread the coronavirus, warning the state should lose its delegates ahead of the nominating convention "if this is not remedied."
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive congresswoman and staunch Sanders surrogate, similarly denounced the decision, urging a quick change of course.
"No matter who you support, it is extremely dangerous that New York is establishing a precedent of cancelling elections citing COVID. Ballots were certified & neither candidate asked for this," she said on Twitter.
The Democratic National Committee will now have to review the state's decision to see if it falls within the party's by-laws.
New York state is the worst-hit in the U.S. with 291,996 confirmed cases and 22,585 fatalities, according to a running tally being produced by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.