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What you need to know as NY prepares for a pandemic primary

Posted at 4:34 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 18:52:28-04

NEW YORK — Legal battles have been fought and executive orders signed, now preparations are underway for New York’s rescheduled June 23 primary.

State officials hope most people vote by mail in the closed primary process. City dwellers who are registered with a party and have a primary in their area can visit to request an absentee ballot through an online form or on the phone.

Furthermore, local boards of election will be sending out paperwork for people to apply for an absentee ballot via mail. In New York City, this means 3.6 million people will get information in the mail over the next week.

The top-of-ballot race for many, the Democratic presidential primary, almost did not happen.

State election officials moved to drop it from the ballot after former Vice President Joe Biden became the presumptive nominee. However, former candidates Andrew Yang and Sen. Bernie Sanders fought to get the race back on the ballot.

Yang and Sanders argued canceling the election would set a dangerous precedent. While both have ended their presidential campaigns, they are striving to accumulate delegates to have influence on Democratic policy setting, which occurs at the convention.

“Without a primary, those interests don’t get represented because Biden would get all the delegates,” Democratic strategist Basil Smikle said. “Those voices would not get heard.”

Smikle is also closely watching what happens with the move to absentee voting. He thinks each party will be looking to learn key lessons and apply them to the November general election.

“I’m worried a lot of voters will be concerned about getting ill, but won’t have engaged the vote by mail process either,” Smikle said. “So I’m concerned about broad civic engagement, and we’ve seen President [Donald] Trump has been very negative against voting by mail practices.”

Trump on Wednesday lashed out on Twitter at leaders in key swing states that have moved toward more voting by mail, despite recently voting by mail himself in his newly declared home state of Florida.

Local election boards, meanwhile, are also preparing their in-person voting infrastructure amid the pandemic. The New York City Board of Elections purchased 10,000 plexiglass table top dividers to make interactions between voters and poll workers safer.

The city BOE also ordered hundreds of thousands of two-in-one stylus pens that can be given to each voter to sign in on a tablet and fill out their ballot.

Other primary races to watch:

NY-15: South Bronx (Democrat race)
This is the race to replace retiring Rep. Jose Serrano. City Councilman Ritchie Torres Jr., who is openly gay, is running against City Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., who was nearly kicked off the council last year for making anti-LGBTQ comments. Other candidates include City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, state Assemb. Michael Blake, and former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

NY-9: Brooklyn (Democrat race)
Rep. Yvette Clarke will face a tough challenge in Brooklyn from several opponents, including Adem Bunkeddeko, who she only narrowly defeated in 2018.

NY-11: Staten Island (Republican race)
State Assemb. Nicole Malliotakis is running against prosecutor Joseph Caldarera. The winner will be part of a hotly contested New York City general election versus incumbent Democrat Max Rose.

NY-2: Long Island (Republican and Democrat)
This is the race to replace longtime Rep. Peter King, who is retiring. It will be one of the most closely contested general elections in the state come November.

Jackie Gordon, U.S. Army veteran and school teacher
Patricia Maher, lawyer and activist

Andrew Garbarino, state assemblyman
Michael LiPetri, state assemblyman